Remains of 45-year-old Mississippi cold-case victim identified

Published 6:36 pm Saturday, March 25, 2023

The body of a white woman found in 1978 that was dumped at an illegal landfill in Mississippi’s Rankin County has been identified, investigators said.

Using DNA testing on the remans of the body, the Rankin County Coroner’s Office positively identified the victim as Tonya Lea Wills Mullins, who was 22 years old when she disappeared, according to a Thursday news release from DNASolves, a database that helps law enforcement solve cold cases.

Rankin County Coroner David Ruth and his deputy, Heather Smith, found renewed interest in the 1978 Jane Doe case after Ohio officials contacted them about a similar unsolved case, The Clarion Ledger reported.

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“As a result, Ruth filed a petition with the courts to exhume the victim’s body,” the statement said. “After considering the evidence, Judge Dewey Arthur approved the exhumation.”

After Ruth collected and shipped the forensic evidence to a lab, experts were able to get a DNA extraction that lead to the victim’s identity.

Meanwhile, authorities are continuing to investigate Mullins’ death to determine what happened to her, the release said.

“We are very appreciative to everyone that helped shepherd this case from the original crime scene to the exhumation, DNA testing, and investigative process that finally led to the restoration of Tonya’s identity,” according to the release.