The Williamson County Sheriff’s Office in Texas has been asking for nearly 40 years who “Orange Socks” is. Ever since the body of a woman was found in a ditch along Interstate 35 on Halloween 1979.
The woman was face down and wore a pair of orange socks, her only clothing and the only identifier police had to offer the public in their decades-long quest to reunite her with her identity.
“We have little to no leads that have been going on,” Sgt. John Pokorny with the Williamson County Cold Case Unit stated, noting the woman was an “obvious victim of a homicide.”
Orange Socks is the informal name given to an American unidentified female who was murdered on October 31, 1979, in Georgetown, Texas. Her body was found naked, except for the pair of orange socks from which her nickname was derived. She had been strangled, and was believed to have died only hours before the discovery. Henry Lee Lucas confessed to and was convicted of her murder, though doubts have been raised about his complicity in this crime.
The victim, who was white and had been sexually assaulted, was found in a culvert on Interstate 35, after being dragged to and thrown over a guardrail. The cause of death was ruled as strangulation, as a large amount of bruising was visible on her neck. Other bruises were also visible, caused by the body having been dropped from the overpass.
The victim’s legs were unshaven with a large number of insect bites. She had very long toenails, her fingernails were painted and a hairline scar was observed beneath the chin. Despite her injuries, the victim had not broken a bone during her life. She had reportedly suffered from salpingitis due to contracting gonorrhea. She had ten-inch-long brown hair with a reddish tint, hazel eyes, and her age ranged from 15 to 30 years. She was approximately five feet eight inches to five feet ten inches tall, and weighed between 140 and 160 pounds. Two of her teeth were missing; the remainder were well-maintained, although they showed little sign of dental care, such as fillings or crowns. A silver ring was found on her hand, containing an abalone or mother of pearl stone. Her ears were pierced.
A towel was found at the scene along with the body, as though the victim was attempting to control her menstruation without having to spend money on tampons. One of two matchbooks found at the scene belonged to a hotel from Henryetta, Oklahoma, which supported the theory she was a hitchhiker or drifter.
In January 2019, it was announced that DNA from the victim’s socks contained the profiles of two or more males. It is unknown if the evidence will be enough for further examination.
In 1982, serial killer Henry Lee Lucas confessed to her murder, although there was no physical evidence that he had been involved in the killing, sexual assault or disposing of the body. In an interview, he stated that he picked her up in Oklahoma, where they had sex. He asked her for sex again while he was driving; he claimed that at this, Orange Socks said “not right now” and attempted to leave his car, at which point he killed her and raped her corpse. He then drove her body to Georgetown. Lucas told authorities that the victim had stated her name as being “Joanie” or “Judy”. He had previously showed officers how he had supposedly dragged her body over the guardrail when taken to the location where her body was found.
One report claims that at the time of Orange Socks’ murder, Lucas was working in Florida, whereas the murder took place in Texas. Interrogators also stated that he had contradicted himself several times when confessing to the murder, and his defense also stated that he was shown images of the crime scene before his interview. In order to have traveled to Oklahoma, to Texas and back to Florida, it was estimated that he would have had to drive at an average of seventy miles an hour, without stopping, which many find unlikely. Lucas later recanted this statement after his conviction in 1984 and, by involvement of the state governor, George W. Bush, his death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment, as the death of Orange Socks was the only case that resulted in his receiving a capital punishment. Lucas had a history of dubious confessions, something that led others to doubt his truthfulness (he confessed to upwards of 3,000 murders). Lucas recanted his confessions, stating that the only murder he had committed was that of his mother, Viola.
After learning that Lucas’ sentence had been reduced, the mother of Suzanne Bowers told reporters that she was opposed to the decision along with several others, as Lucas had confessed to murdering the 12-year-old in 1984.
The “Orange Socks” case had been featured twice on America’s Most Wanted since the murder took place. An anonymous woman called to the program on one occasion claiming she had seen Orange Socks hitchhiking the day of her murder, but the lead has not generated any new information.
In 2001, a missing woman’s photograph surfaced that resembled Orange Socks. DNA testing, however, did not match. Another report suggests that the victim was a woman who had disappeared in the 1970s, together with her abusive boyfriend. Former missing person Martha Morrison was speculated by some to possibly have been the unidentified woman, but she was eventually ruled out. Morrison’s remains were identified in 2015 as a Jane Doe found in Washington the same year she disappeared. Several other missing women have also been excluded from the case.
On the 37th anniversary of her discovery, new reconstructions of Orange Socks were released by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The organization also entered her into their database.
In May 2018, law enforcement stated they planned on examining the victim’s ring as well as run tests to identify the location the victim’s socks were made. A book of matches found near the body were traced to a hotel in Oklahoma but couldn’t identify anyone matching her description in the records.
The DNA Doe Project announced they will be assisting in the victim’s case.