Lifestyle & Human Interest

Unsolved: Who Killed Debra 'Orange Socks' Jackson?


Nearly 40 years ago, law enforcement found an unidentified woman lying in a drainage ditch near Georgetown, Texas.

The “Jane Doe” had been strangled and was found wearing only orange socks, which would be the basis of her identity for almost 40 years.

Earlier this year, thanks to genetic genealogy advancements, investigators were able to identify “Orange Socks” as 23-year-old Debra Jackson from Abilene, Texas, according to KEYE-TV.

Even though the identification of Jackson has been a huge help for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office, her case remains unsolved.

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Halloween Day, 1979

On Halloween Day in 1979, investigators found a Jane Doe who had died from apparent strangulation near Georgetown. She was found wearing nothing but a pair of orange socks, which became her identity.

Investigators were faced with two large questions: Who was the victim and who killed her?

For years the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office could answer neither question, but in 1982 a notorious serial killer, Henry Lee Lucas, confessed to the Orange Socks murder, according to KTBC-TV.

Have you heard of the 'Orange Socks' case?

Lucas claimed he had picked the girl up in Oklahoma, killed her on the way to Texas and dumped her in the ditch in Williamson County, where she was later found.

There was a matchbook from an Oklahoma hotel found near Jackson’s body in 1979.

While Lucas was tried, convicted and sentenced to death for Jackson’s murder, he later recanted his confession — a pattern for which he was known.

Then-Governor George Bush commuted Lucas’ sentence to life in prison in 1998, saying that “serious concerns have been raised about his guilt in [the Orange Socks] case,” The Associated Press reported.

Lucas was already serving six other life sentences and 210 years in prison for nine other murders.

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His guilt in this particular case is still debated today.

“He recanted on almost all his confessions after the trial. Nobody knows how many people he killed,” former Williamson County District Attorney Ed Walsh said, according to KTBC. “He certainly didn’t kill everybody he claimed to have killed. I would estimate about 100 folks.”

Updated Sketches That Led to a Breakthrough

On June 26, 2019, Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody shared an updated forensic sketch of “Orange Socks” on Twitter.

That updated sketch would lead to a crucial breakthrough in the case nearly 40 years after the unidentified woman had been found.

A woman from Abilene reached out to investigators after seeing the sketch on the news and claimed that “Orange Socks” was her 23-year-old sister, Debra Jackson, KEYE reported.

Genetic genealogists from the DNA Doe Project took a DNA sample from Jackson’s sister and compared it to a DNA profile from “Orange Socks.”

The nonprofit, which helps law enforcement agencies identify John and Jane Does by comparing DNA samples from crime scenes to profiles on the database website GEDmatch, confirmed that the unidentified woman found in Georgetown was, in fact, Debra Jackson.

Kevin Lord from the DNA Doe Project told The Western Journal that his team began working on the case in 2018, but due to GEDMatch’s policy change in May of 2019, their search was hindered.

“This case is a little bit different in how it was solved from other cases that we have worked on because it was really the new forensics batch that brought in the lead that solved her case,” Lord said. “Maybe a couple weeks into when we had started trying to do all of our genealogy work, they released a new sketch to the media.”

“One of her relatives, a sister, saw that sketch and contacted the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office,” he added. “At that point we just helped them do the DNA confirmation side.”

Investigators announced the update in the case in August 2019.

Unanswered Questions

Even though the identity of “Orange Socks” brings some sense of closure, investigators are still seeking justice in Jackson’s murder.

“It’s a big deal,” Chody said in a news conference on Aug. 7, according to KTBC. “We haven’t solved the case, but we solved something that’s taken 40 years.”

Chody said that Jackson left her Abilene home in 1977. The family didn’t file a missing persons report because it was not uncommon for her to leave home and was therefore not entered into any databases, KEYE reported.

KVUE-TV reported that according to officials, Jackson was working at a hotel in Amarillo, Texas, and at an assisted living facility in Azle, Texas, in 1978.

Investigators also discovered that Jackson’s social security activity stopped after 1979.

If you have any information that could help the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office solve this case, including Jackson’s whereabouts between 1977 to 1979, please contact the office’s cold case unit’s tip line at 512-943-5204.

UPDATE, Oct. 30, 2019: This article has been updated with comments from DNA Doe Project’s Kevin Lord.

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Kayla has been a staff writer for The Western Journal since 2018.
Kayla Kunkel began writing for The Western Journal in 2018.
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