Success Stories

Donna Lisa Williamson

Donna Lisa Williamson was last seen in August of 1982 in North Richland Hills, Texas. Her car was found abandoned in a motel parking lot in Fort Worth. On May 20, 1993 a fence crew at the Halliburton jet research lab found a human skull, rib cage and several other bones in a wooded area two miles south of Alvarado, Texas along Interstate 35W. There was a tattered blouse and some jewelry near the bones but no hint of the person's identity. The Johnson County Sheriff's Office determined that the remains belonged to a female between 17 and 27 years old and approximately 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 9 inches in height. It was determined that death was due to stab wounds inflicted during a violent attack. The remains would go unidentified for another decade.

In June of 2003, investigators with the Johnson County Sheriff's office learned of the newly formed Texas Missing Persons DNA Database (TMPDD) and its services. Investigators enlisted the help of the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office and had a bone sample sent to the TMPDD.

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Johnson County investigators, North Richland Hills police were also working some of their old cold cases. At the same time, Rica Garcia, a North Richland Hills Detective, also became aware of the TMPDD. She tracked down Donna Williamson's mother in Florida and arranged to have her DNA collected and submitted to the Texas Missing Persons DNA Database.

Over the next several months' these cases were worked by the forensic DNA analysts of the TMPDD. In May of 2004, using recently installed FBI missing person software, a search was conducted between all of the family reference sample DNA profiles and unidentified remains DNA profiles stored in the missing person database. During that search a "cold hit" was made. This was the first "cold hit" experienced through the new database. Upon researching the hit, it was determined that there was a 95.2 percent probability that the DNA from the remains belonged to Donna Williamson.

The two submitting agencies were immediately contacted and the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office compared Williamson's dental records with those of the remains. A positive match and identification was made as a result of the DNA match and positive dental comparison. Johnson County Sheriff's Sgt. David Cole was ecstatic when he received word and said, "They heard me all up and down the hall. They say I don't show much emotion. I did that day. I let out a whoop and said I want everybody in here."

The identification solved a 22 year-old mystery. The message that is now going out to law enforcement officials and the family members of missing persons is, don't give up hope. Even if you have a family member who has been missing over two decades, there is still hope in making the identification. Once a set of remains is positively identified, a vital new lead is established for the ongoing investigation of the homicide.