'Lady in the Fridge' Identified 28 Years Later

$10K reward offered in California for information leading to arrest of her killer
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 3, 2023 12:42 PM CST
$10K Reward Offered for Killer of 'Lady in the Fridge'
Amanda Lynn Schumann Deza   (San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office)

For the 30 years she was alive, she was known as Amanda Deza. For almost as long since her death, she's been dubbed California's "lady in the fridge"—but no longer. The San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office has announced that it's finally identified Deza, born Amanda Lynn Schumann Deza, almost exactly 28 years after her body was found inside a refrigerator partially submerged in an irrigation canal near Stockton, with her hands tied behind her back, per the San Francisco Chronicle. The body, which also showed signs of blunt force trauma, was thought to have rested in that watery tomb for six months when it was discovered in March 1995, leading to an advanced state of decomposition that made identification a challenge.

Indeed, it was only last year when investigators passed the woman's bones to private forensic genealogy lab Othram that a DNA profile was obtained. Forensic geneologists compared that profile to public databases and last month identified two people believed to be the woman's mother and daughter, per the Chronicle and Los Angeles Times. They provided DNA samples that confirmed the connections. "Our team was so excited when we were able to get results from DNA, identify her and her family members, and we were able to reach out to them," Sheriff Patrick Withrow said at a Feb. 23 press conference, per the Times. "It gives us a place to start," added Lt. Linda Jimenez, referring to the search for Deza's killer.

Since the identification, investigators have been combing through all details of Deza's life, which "usually leads us to who was responsible for taking [a person's] life," Jimenez said, per the Times. Deza, a Bay Area mother of three who was separated from her husband and family when she disappeared in 1994, was last seen at an apartment complex in Napa with a man she'd met at a rehab facility, according to the sheriff's office. "She was involved in some challenging times," Jimenez said, adding family members searched for her but "didn't get very far." A missing person report was never filed. Anyone with information on the case should call the cold case unit at 209-468-5087. A $10,000 reward is offered for information leading to an arrest, per USA Today. (Read more cold cases stories.)

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