'Jane Doe' identified 20 years after murder thanks to genome sequencing tech; OCSO investigating new leads

We are hearing from the people who helped identify a Jane Doe found dead in a rural area more than 20 years ago.

The woman’s body was found on Taylor Creek Road in Christmas, Florida in December 2003. It was not until March 2024 that detectives found out who she was. Now, they are investigating new leads and are hopeful someone who recognizes her or her name will be able to provide additional details to help solve her murder.

Michael Vogen, director of account management for Othram, Inc., said it was a collaborative effort. The Texas-based company analyzes forensic evidence to generate human identification. These remains were identified as Holly Rose Garcia, 26. 

"We use forensic grade genome sequencing to develop a very high-performing DNA profile for the individual. Once we have that profile, we hand it off to the FBI," Vogen said. "They were able to reverse engineer their way through family trees and public records, and probably a lot of interviews where this DNA came from, and ultimately, Holly was the source of the DNA from this scene."

According to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), the mother and wife was never reported missing. Details on her death have not yet been released, but she is believed to have been killed four to six weeks before she was found, and investigators do not think she was murdered at that location.

"How do you piece together someone’s last few days of life if you have no idea who they are? Once these folks get their names back, generally speaking, the ‘whodunit’ portion of the investigation picks up momentum very quickly," Vogen said.

The OCSO is requesting information on Garcia’s then-husband, Miguel Angel Garcia-Rivera.

"We do not know where her husband is located currently," said Det. Chelsey Koepsell of the OCSO cold case unit. "We would really like to speak with any family of Miguel Garcia-Rivera’s. No tip is too small; if you knew Holly or if you knew Miguel, please call Crimeline."

If you have information that may help investigators, call the OCSO cold case unit at (407) 836-4357 or Crimeline at 800-423-TIPS (8477).

As for genome sequencing, it can be pricey. According to Vogen, it ranges from $5,000 to $15,000 per case. Vogen said the cost is often what stops remains from being identified. He said Holly Garcia’s case, and several other cases from the OCSO, were funded with help from the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NAMUS). According to Vogen, Othram often helps local law enforcement agencies navigate avenues to secure grant funding. He said Othram’s purpose is to identify remains and bring about closure.

"It makes the long days and no weekends very worth it," Vogen said. "You realize that you’re doing some good work for people, that otherwise, may have gone the rest of their lives without getting an answer."