'Lady in the fridge' cold case victim identified as mom with Bay Area ties

A woman with ties to the Bay Area was identified as the woman whose body was discovered nearly 27 years ago in a refrigerator in San Joaquin County.

Amanda Lynn Schumann Deza, who was 29 years old at the time of her killing, was found March 1995 inside a partially submerged refrigerator in a canal in the unincorporated town of Holt, said investigators at a news conference on Friday. Authorities said a man searching for recyclables in the area made the discovery.

Amanda Lynn Schumann Deza was the San Joaquin County homicide victim formerly dubbed "Lady in the fridge." (Photo provided by the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Office)

The fridge was found tied shut and laying in an irrigation canal off Bacon Island Road, according to KCRA. Deza's hands were bound together with tape and a sock was stuffed inside her mouth.

Investigators said Deza's decomposed body had been in the refrigerator for at least six months, which would place her time of death in 1994.

Authorities said Deza died from blunt force trauma to the head. For almost 30 years, her identity remained a mystery, and her killing was unsolved. The case became known as the "lady in the fridge."

"With all the advancements in investigative and scientific technology, we were able to use investigative technology, which combines DNA analysis with traditional genealogy research," said Lieutenant Linda Jimenez on Friday.

In 2022, the sheriff's office and county medical examiner partnered with Othram, a forensic genealogy lab that helps solve cold cases.

Skeletal evidence was sent to Othram's lab where scientists were able to build a DNA profile for the victim. That sample and additional forensic testing lead investigators to two relatives of the victim: her mother and daughter.

They provided their DNA samples which were used to confirm Deza's identity.

"Amanda is a daughter. She's a sister. She's a mother, she's a friend," said Jimenez.

While Deza's identity is no longer a mystery, her killer is as the investigation hasn't yielded any information on a possible suspect. Her last few years of life are also puzzling.

"We're missing several pieces to the years prior to her disappearance and her death," said Jimenez.

Jimenez said Deza had lived in Napa, Oakley, and the Delta area. Michael Vogen of Othram said Deza had been separated from her husband and children at the time of her disappearance. Her last known whereabouts were at an unknown apartment complex in Napa with an unidentified man she met in a rehab facility.

"She was, you know, involved in some challenging times like we all have in our lives. And we're hopeful that Amanda was on her path to handle those challenges and make her life a lot better," the lieutenant said.

Deza also had family in the Napa area and some items of evidence originated from the Bay Area, according to sheriff's office spokesman Deputy Nicholas Goucher.

Her family never filed a missing persons report, but they had searched for her.

"They were looking for her. They were concerned for her welfare. They just didn't get very far," said Jimenez.