Murder of Debra Jackson

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Debra Jackson
Debra Jackson.jpg
Undated photograph of Debra Jackson
BornSeptember 23, 1956
Disappearedc. 1977
Abilene, Texas
StatusIdentified August 6, 2019
DiedOctober 30 or 31, 1979
(aged 23)
Cause of deathStrangulation
Body discoveredGeorgetown, Williamson County, Texas, United States
Resting placeOdd Fellows Cemetery, Georgetown, Texas[1]
Other names"Orange Socks"
Known forFormerly unidentified decedent
HeightBetween 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m)
and 5 ft 10 in (1.78 m) (approximate)

Debra Louise Jackson,[2] informally known as "Orange Socks" when unidentified, was a Texas murder victim who went unidentified for nearly 40 years before being identified via a DNA match with her surviving sister in 2019. Her murder is believed to have taken place on October 31, 1979, in Georgetown, Texas. Her body was found naked, except for the pair of orange socks from which the nickname was derived.[3][4][5] She had been strangled, and was believed to have died only hours before the discovery.[6][7][8][9] Henry Lee Lucas confessed to and was convicted of her murder. Though doubts have been raised about his complicity in this crime, Lucas's conviction was not overturned. His death sentence was commuted by Texas governor George W. Bush in 1998. He died in prison of heart failure. There is strong evidence that Lucas was in Florida when Jackson was murdered.[10][11]

Evidence and physical description[edit]

Jackson, who had been sexually assaulted, was found in a culvert on Interstate 35, having been dragged to and thrown over a guardrail.[4][5][12] 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 her body having been dropped from the overpass, after being dragged through a patch of grass.[12] Blood stains were also present at the scene. The victim was initially estimated to be in her twenties at the time of her death. Several other murders had taken place along the same interstate in Travis County, Texas, which police stated may have been connected to the then-unidentified victim.[13]

Jackson'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. The victim's earlobes were noted to be "unique" and her toes were noted to be longer than average.[14] Despite her injuries, she had not broken a bone during her life.[6][8][9][12][11] She had reportedly suffered from salpingitis due to contracting gonorrhea.[6][7] 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.[4][6][9] Two of her teeth were missing; the remainder were well-maintained, although they showed little sign of dental treatment.[4][15] A silver ring was found on her hand, containing an abalone or mother of pearl stone. Her ears were pierced.[6][11]

A towel was found at the scene along with her body, as though she was attempting to control her menstruation without spending money on sanitary products.[6][12] 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.[5][12][15]

Confession by Henry Lee Lucas[edit]

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.[5][8][16] In an interview, he stated that he picked her up in Oklahoma, where they had sex.[17] He asked her for sex again while he was driving; he claimed that at this, Debra 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.[7][12][18][19] 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.[7][9][12][20]

One report claims that at the time of Jackson's murder, Lucas was working in Florida, whereas the murder took place in Texas.[10][3] 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.[11][19] 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.[17][21] 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 Jackson's murder was the only case that resulted in his receiving the death penalty.[3][10] Lucas had a history of dubious confessions, something that led others to doubt his truthfulness (he confessed to upwards of 3,000 murders).[4][5][9][15][22] Lucas recanted his confessions, stating that the only murder he had committed was that of his mother, Viola.[16]

Media appearances and further investigation[edit]

Reconstruction of Jackson, based on mortuary photographs, created prior to her identification.

In 2001, a missing woman's photograph surfaced that resembled Jackson, whose identity was then unknown. 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.[9] Former missing person Martha Morrison was speculated by some to possibly have been the unidentified woman, but she was eventually ruled out.[23] Morrison's remains were identified in 2015 as a Jane Doe found in Washington the same year she disappeared.[24] Several other missing women were also excluded.[23]

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 Debra hitchhiking the day of her murder, but the lead has not generated any new information.[25]

On the 37th anniversary of her discovery, new reconstructions of Debra were released by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. The organization also entered her into their database.[26]

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.[1]

By January 2019, it was announced that DNA from Jackson's socks contained the profiles of two or more males. It is unknown if the evidence will be enough for further examination.[27] The DNA was recovered from fingernail scrapings as well as pubic hair samples.[14]


Jackson was identified with the aid of the DNA Doe Project in August 2019, in addition with that of a revised artistic rendering by forensic artist Natalie Murry, which caught the eye of Jackson's sister.[28] The DNA Doe Project identified a potential cousin of the victim through their research. Members of her family visually identified the victim based on her morgue photographs and unique physical characteristics. After Jackson's sister informed law enforcement of the resemblance, the organization processed a saliva-based DNA kit which confirmed the two were related. Jackson was last seen around 1977 and had never been reported missing. Further investigation revealed the victim was employed at the Ramada Inn and Bur-Mont, an assisted living facility about a year prior to her death. The locations of these facilities were in Amarillo and Azle, Texas, respectively. She also worked at RE West and CG Admiral PTR retail company during the same year she was murdered, yet the location is unknown at this time. The Williamson County Sheriff reached out for potential witnesses to step forward in order to solve her murder.[14]

Many other details about her life also remain unclear, but it is known she attended school locally and may have used the alias surnames "Moon" and "Larned" in the years preceding her death.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Spencer, Bridget (24 May 2018). "Investigation continues into 'Orange Socks' cold case". KTBC. Fox. Retrieved 1 November 2018.
  2. ^ a b Garner, Erica (3 September 2019). "Police looking for info on cold case murder victim with ties to Abilene". KTAB - Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "Inside the Criminal Mind". Time Life. 2014. p. 21.
  4. ^ a b c d e "'Orange Socks' DPS seeks help in identifying Lucas' victim". The Facts. 19 June 1998. p. 9. Retrieved August 5, 2014 – via open access
  5. ^ a b c d e "One-eyed drifter to die for 'orange socks' killing". AP Online. 31 March 1998. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Case File: 33UFTX". Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d RJ (23 January 2012). "Joanie Doe: I'm known for my orange socks". Can You Identify Me?. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Michael Graczyk (17 June 1998). "Orange Socks tombstone simply reads: Unidentified Woman 1979". Abilene Reporter-News. Archived from the original on March 21, 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  9. ^ a b c d e f Vertuno, Jim (31 October 2004). "Identity of 'Orange Socks' remains a mystery". Associated Press. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  10. ^ a b c "Lucas Says He Won't Beg for Life". The Paris News. 25 June 1998. p. 13. Retrieved August 6, 2014 – via open access
  11. ^ a b c d Lunsford, Lance (28 May 2006). "Drifter's confession to Williamson murder failed to hold up". Lubbock Avalanch-Journal. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g "UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN 1979". The Paris News. 17 June 1998. p. 15. Retrieved August 6, 2014 – via open access
  13. ^ "KVUE REWIND: 'Orange Socks' body found". KVUE. 1 November 1979. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  14. ^ a b c Knight, Drew; Covagnaro, Hank (7 August 2019). "1979 'Orange Socks' cold case victim identified as Debra Jackson of Abilene". KVUE. ABC. Retrieved 8 August 2019.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ a b c Austin, Nancy (1 November 2007). "Halloween: Anniversary of the Dead". Archived from the original on July 29, 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  16. ^ a b Verhovek, Sam Howe (8 January 1992). "Death-row Inmate May Not Deserve Penalty". Indiana Gazette. p. 4. Retrieved 11 October 2014 – via access
  17. ^ a b Husain, Michael. "Myth Of A Serial Killer: The Henry Lee Lucas Story." American Justice. Dir. Michael Husain. Prod. Bill Kurtis. A&E. 1997. Television.
  18. ^ "AG probing Lucas confessions". The Paris News. 15 April 1985. p. 1. Retrieved 11 October 2014 – via access
  19. ^ a b Ramsland, Katherine. "Henry Lee Lucas: Prolific Serial Killer or Prolific Liar?". Archived from the original on February 10, 2015. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  20. ^ "Countdown to Execution: Death Date Set for Lucas". The Facts. Clute, Texas. 15 June 1998. Retrieved 18 July 2015 – via access
  21. ^ Schechter, Harold (30 December 2003). The Serial Killer Files: The Who, What, Where, How, and Why of the World's Most Terrifying Murderers. New York City, New York: Ballantine Books. p. 64. ISBN 0345465660.
  22. ^ "TEXAS SPARES LIFE OF SERIAL KILLER LUCAS ONLY MURDER EVIDENCE IN `ORANGE SOCKS' CASE IS RECANTED CONFESSION". Rocky Mountain News. 27 June 1998. Archived from the original on 29 June 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2014 – via HighBeam Research.(subscription required)
  23. ^ a b "NamUs UP # 8056". National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. 21 October 2010. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
  24. ^ Gillespie, Emily (13 July 2015). "Remains of homicide victim found near Vancouver identified after 41 years". The Columbian. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  25. ^ "Orange Socks Jane Doe Murder - Texas - 1979". 25 March 2014. Retrieved 23 November 2014.
  26. ^ "Jane Doe 1979". National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. 31 October 2016. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  27. ^ Knight, Drew (15 January 2019). "Williamson County officials make headway in 1979 'orange socks' cold case". KVUE. Retrieved 17 January 2019.
  28. ^ "Orange Socks Doe". DNA Doe Project. Retrieved 5 June 2019.

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