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Annandale “Christmas Tree Lady” Cold Case Solved After 25 Years

ANNANDALE, VA – Fairfax County Police reported yesterday that they have solved a cold case mystery about a deceased female known only as “The Christmas Tree Lady” that has loomed over them for 25 years.

The case began on December 18, 1996, when 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.

Using DNA testing, the Cold Case Squad identified the woman as Joyce Meyer on May 11, 2022. The identification was made possible through advanced DNA testing and forensic-grade genome sequencing provided by Othram Inc. Funding for the testing was provided entirely by anonymous donors through DNASolves.

According to a statement by the Fairfax County police, “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.”

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.

“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,” said Major Ed O’Carroll, Bureau Commander, Major Crimes, Cyber & Forensics.

Mary Wadland

Mary Wadland is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Zebra Press, founded by her in 2010. Originally from Delray Beach, Florida, Mary is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Hollins College in Roanoke, VA and has lived and worked in the Alexandria publishing community since 1987.

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