The sad case of Annandale Jane Doe

UPDATE – July 2022

In July 2022, the identity of Annandale Jane Doe was finally discovered.  Her name is Joyce Marilyn Meyer Sommers or Joyce Meyer, depending on the source.  

This info about the discovery is from

In January 2022, Fairfax Police Department detectives sent physical evidence to Othram and Othram scientists used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to develop a comprehensive genealogical profile for the unknown woman. Othram worked with forensic genetic genealogist, Carla Davis, to execute the genealogical search and perform the research necessary to produce investigative leads. The costs associated with this casework were funded by a DNASolves crowdfund and a substantial contribute from an anonymous donor.

In May 2022, investigative leads were returned to the detectives and this led to a connection with one suspected family member of the unknown woman. From there, the investigation led to additional family connections across the country. A DNA sample from a close relative confirmed a match and this confirmation was further corroborated by conversations with long-lost siblings. The woman known for a quarter century as “Christmas Tree Lady” was determined to be Joyce Marilyn Meyer Sommers, originally from Davenport, Iowa. She was the oldest of 5 siblings.

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. Although she was not reported missing, her family had spent years looking for her and even hired a private detective. Additionally, it appears that Joyce did not have any children.

In an agency press release, Major Ed O’Carroll, Bureau Commander, Major Crimes, Cyber & Forensics, at Fairfax Police Department said: “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.”



The week before Christmas in 1996. There is a Christmas tree at the scene – small, but beautifully adorned with gold baubles and red ribbon. It sounds almost like the lead up to a Christmas fairy tale. But, what actually happened has lead to one of the saddest and most lonely cold cases that I can think of.

On December 18, 1996, a groundskeeper at Pleasant Valley Memorial Park Cemetery in Annandale, Virginia came across the body of a female. The woman was laying on a clear plastic sheet on the ground, in what is known as ‘Babyland’ – the section of the cemetery where infants are buried.


Next to her was the 8 inch Christmas tree. The woman had seemingly taken her own life by suffocation – she had secured a plastic bag around her head with tape.

The Christmas Tree

Police were called and began their investigation. Once the bag was removed, the woman was found to wearing headphones with a portable cassette player. A recording of comedians Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner doing their 2000 Year Old Man routine was in the player.

Her autopsy confirmed that she had consumed brandy prior to her death – her BAC was 0.14, and she took Valium before placing the bag over her head.

The autopsy also showed a scar on Jane’s abdomen. It is thought the scar may be from a C-section.


When she was found, she was wearing a teal Eddie Bauer hooded jacket (size M), a navy blue ‘Classiques Entier’ sweater (size L), a red ‘Classiques Entier’ sweater (size XL), a red ‘Classiques Entier’ sleeveless silk shirt (size Petite L), navy blue ‘Classiques Entier’ knit wool pants (size L), knee high stockings, white bra, white Fruit of the Loom underpants (size 6) and black loafters (size 7M). Police believe her clothing may have come from an upscale department store Nordstrom. ‘Classiques Entier’ is a Nordstrom brand.

She was also wearing jewellery – two clip on earrings and a small gold women’s Guess watch with a mesh band. She had a 14 karat gold ring with four jade stones and a medic alert bracelet that stated “NO CODE, DNR, No Penicillin.”

The medic alert bracelet

Jane’s jewellery

Bifocals with translucent frames were found with her effects. A green knapsack that held Jeff Foxworthy’s ‘You Might Be A Redneck’ cassette, a tape of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, two empty juice bottles, a red scarf, and a new roll of masking tape were also found.

The juice bottles found at the scene
The cassette player at the scene

The woman also left money and notes – one note was addressed to the cemetery and the other to the Coroner. In each envelope, there was a $50 bill and a typed note reading ” Deceased by own hand…prefer no autopsy. Please order cremation with funds provided. Thank you, Jane Doe.”

Jane Doe’s backpack

There was a typewritten poem found with her belongings. Investigators have been unable to determine the author, and it is believed she wrote it herself:

The note

No other paperwork or identification was found on her body or with her effects.

Jane Doe’s belongings

One unusual item that was found was a Minnie Mouse themed ‘fanny pack’. The pack was well worn and had been mended with masking tape and safety pins. Was this item precious to Jane? Does it give a clue as to why she ended her life in the children’s area of the cemetery?


Post-mortem photo of Jane

Jane is estimated to have been between 50-70 years old.  She was 5’0 tall and weighed 157 lbs.  Her hair was curly and a copper red color. 

Despite decades of investigation, Jane Doe has never been identified. Why did she choose the children’s area of the cemetery to take her life? Was the date significant to her? So many questions that have remained unanswered for over 20 years…

Investigating Agencies

Agency Name: Northern District Medical Examiner’s Office
Agency Contact Person: N/A
Agency Phone Number: 703-530-2600
Agency Case Number: N1996-41257

Agency Name: Fairfax County Police Department
Agency Contact Person: N/A
Agency Phone Number: 800-673-2777
Agency Case Number: 96353000549

Agency Name: Fairfax County Crime Solvers
Agency Contact Person: N/A
Agency Phone Number: 800-411-TIPS or 703-691-8888

NCIC Case Number: U989549567
NamUs Case Number: UP #6279

21 thoughts on “The sad case of Annandale Jane Doe

  1. Wow! Just came across this article on this woman. I found her at Pleasant Valley Memorial December 18, 1996. At the time my Aunt was the manager and needed a job out of High school. I and another groundskeeper found her. I will never forget this day. It’s sad they still don’t know who she is. Thanks for the Great Article!! Jason D

      • On that morning when I and Donald found her, we were on the golf cart and drove right past her. She was located in the landscape bed next to the Mausoleum, that is next to Babyland. It seem to me she was trying to hide behind the bushes. We walked up to her and she was laying there with a plastic bag over here head, it seem to be keeping her hair from not getting wet. I always wonder why she pick that spot, I would understand more if she left her name and pasted away on top of a grave. There was no vehicles at the Cemetery, there is a bus stop on rt 236 and drops off in front and across NOVA college. My mind wonders about her every Christmas! Thank again for this article

    • Any way you would be willing to take the time to talk to me about this? I have questions because I think I might know who she was.

      • Please keep us updated if you identify her and if you need any help I am more than willing to help research

      • Rebecca, please respond with more details. I live near Annandale and I’ve been haunted by this case for decades (my father died around the same time, and I first learned of this Jane Doe because she was in the same obituary column in the Washington Post).

    • Jason… any idea on how long she had been there before you found her? How old were you? Was it upsetting enough that it’s caused you issues (bad dreams, etc) through the years?

      It’s such a sad story!

    • hello! I thought I’d let you know it has been solved if you haven’t seen the news yet. I’m so sorry you found her! may she rest in peace

  2. One of the saddest cases I’ve heard! Nobody should die alone and in such a manner! My thoughts and love are with this woman.

  3. Well, why that date? Why that time of year (summer would have been more comfortable for a passing)? The woman also had a little girls fanny pack with her.

  4. I think that she had a child that died and she had a depression from it, so she killed herself. She probably brought the dead children’s belongings? (explaining the fanny pack) I have no idea…

  5. Terri After a cursory search on I do not think this case is related to Brandi Rae. Of course I can be wrong, but the find a grave site stated Brandi’s mother lived in Woodbridge, just a few miles from the cemetery (different county ). I could only find one Carmen Ballard in Woodbridge and her mother died in 2001. The family and the Jane Doe are not of the same race. Of course, Jane Doe could be the father’s mother but with all this attention it would seem they would know. Again, this was just a quick search and I can be way off base. Would like to hear from others researching.

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