Cold Case Detectives Solve 25-Year Mystery

Detectives from our Cold Case Squad have solved a mystery more than 25 years in the making by identifying a woman who took her own life in Fairfax County. Detectives have been tracking down clues for years about the woman known only as “The Christmas Tree Lady.” The woman was identified as Joyce Meyer on May 11. The identification was made possible through advanced DNA testing and forensic-grade genome sequencing provided by Othram Inc. Funding for this testing was provided entirely by anonymous donors through DNASolves.

Othram utilized advanced Forensic Genetic Genealogy technology to identify a possible family member of Meyer. Detectives connected with the family member, which led to additional family connections across the country. A DNA sample confirmed a match, which was corroborated by conversations with long-lost siblings.

The case began on December 18, 1996, as our officers were called to Pleasant Valley Memorial Park at 8420 Little River Turnpike in Annandale for a deceased woman. The woman had two envelopes in her pocket: one contained a note indicating she had taken her own life. The second envelope contained money to cover her funeral expenses. The notes were signed “Jane Doe.” A small decorative Christmas tree was also found near her body. Detectives determined there was no foul play in her death, but they were unable to identify her. 

Our detectives compared her physical description to numerous missing persons cases in the National Capital Region but were unable to find a match. Through Othram’s testing, it was later determined Meyer was 69-years-old when she was found deceased. Family members believe Meyer may have moved to the Virginia area sometime after the mid-1980s. At the time of her death, Meyer was not reported missing and did not have family in the immediate area.  

Our Cold Case Squad detectives work diligently and are committed to bring each case to resolution. Occasionally, our detectives are assigned cases that are not criminal in nature but are deserving of their attention to help families who may have unanswered questions. 

“After decades of wondering what happened to their loved one, Joyce’s family is finally at peace thanks to the dedicated work of several generations of FCPD detectives, anonymous donors and Othram. Our detectives never stopped working for Joyce and her family. Advances in technology will continue to help close cases and provide answers to victim’s families.” – Major Ed O’Carroll, Bureau Commander, Major Crimes, Cyber & Forensics.