October 31, 1979
The body of an woman clad only in orange socks is found in a concrete culvert
The body was found by two passersby who then notified the police. The victim was approximated to be between the ages of 15 and 30 years of age, with long brown hair and hazel eyes. As she was entirely nude except for a pair of brightly colored socks, she was given the nickname Orange Socks.
Orange Socks’ autopsy revealed she had been sexually assaulted and strangled, likely shortly before her body was found. Williamson County chief of criminal investigations Ray Hardison believed the body was dumped from a moving vehicle. Hardison told reporters the area where Orange Socks was left had been the site where other dead bodies had been found and was “getting to be a pretty good dumping ground.” Sketches of the woman were distributed in hopes of determining her identity but proved futile. Orange Socks was buried in a grave marked “unidentified woman.”
In 1982, Henry Lee Lucas confessed to the murder of Orange Socks along with 600 more killings across 26 states. “I think her name was Joanie or Judy,” Lucas wrote in a confession, “I don’t remember exactly.”
Lucas later recanted all the confessions he had made and insisted he had killed no one. “He kept saying he was going to get even with law enforcement because they had treated him badly all his life,” reporter Hugh G. Aynesworth testified later during Lucas’ appeal. “He was going to make fools of them.” Despite the recantations, Lucas was convicted in 1984 of killing Orange Socks and was sentenced to death. Although he had been convicted of 8 other murders in Texas and another in West Virginia, it was Orange Socks’ killing which earned Lucas the death penalty. His term was later commuted to life imprisonment by then-Gov. George W. Bush when his confessions were doubted, in part based on evidence he had been employed as a roofer in Florida during the time Orange Socks had been murdered in Texas. He died in prison in 2001.
“He kept saying he was going to get even with law enforcement because they had treated him badly all his life. He was going to make fools of them.”Hugh G. Aynesworth
In 2018, a sketch of Orange Socks was broadcast on television. Her story had been featured on national television before, including two episodes of America’s Most Wanted, but this particular instance drew the attention of another woman who suspected the unidentified victim may be her sister, Debra Jackson.
Jackson had left her home in Abilene, Texas in 1977, at the age of 23. She was known to have traveled between a few cities in Texas before her family lost contact with her. They did not file a missing persons report as they believed she was living life independently. Jackson’s sister positively identified the body based on photos from the autopsy, including a scar on her leg left behind by impetigo (a bacterial infection) as well as her “abnormally long toes and uniquely shaped earlobes.” The sister was aided by the DNA Doe Project who uploaded her DNA into a genealogy database which positively matched her with the DNA profile of Orange Socks, who was then officially given back her identity.
Sheriff Robert Chody announced Debra Jackson’s identity on August 7, 2019, two months shy of the 40th anniversary of her death. It was also noted DNA from a male source was found beneath her fingernails during her autopsy but it was not stated if law enforcement had made a match to a suspect.
Those who may have known Jackson during her time after leaving Abilene are encouraged to contact detectives at 512-943-5204.
Vidal, Gabriela. “Victim in WilCo ‘orange socks’ murder case identified as Abilene woman.” CBS Austin. August 7, 2019. Accessed: October 31, 2020. https://cbsaustin.com/news/local/wilco-sheriff-victim-in-orange-socks-murder-cold-case-identified
Osborn, Claire. “40 years after her death, Debra Jackson of Abilene identified as ‘Orange Socks’.” Statesman. August 7, 2019. Updated: August 8, 2019. Accessed: October 31, 2020. https://www.statesman.com/news/20190807/40-years-after-her-death-debra-jackson-of-abilene-identified-as-orange-socks
“Orange Socks Doe.” DNA Doe Project. May 5, 2019. Accessed: October 31, 2020. https://dnadoeproject.org/case/orange-socks-doe/
“Who is ‘Orange Socks’?” The Marshall News Messenger. October 24, 2004
“Killer appeals ‘Orange Socks’ death sentence.” Odessa American. January 9, 1996
Schwab, Robert. “Body found in I-35 ditch.” Austin American-Statesman. November 1, 1979