No foul play found in death of woman who disappeared in 2005

An autopsy has found no evidence that a mentally ill Medford woman who disappeared on a hot August afternoon in 2005 died at the hands of another, police said.

"There was no evidence of foul play," Jackson County Sheriff Detective Eric Fox said.

Rachel Rice, a 46-year-old diagnosed schizophrenic, was last seen walking barefoot on Old Stage Road on Aug. 2, 2005. Rice was a lifelong Rogue Valley resident, an honor student and a loving mother of two who struggled with a 20-year battle with mental illness, said her daughter Lindsey Rice-Meilicke.

Rice also had a history of running away from foster homes, and even her family, because her disease sometimes caused her to believe she was in danger, she said.

On Jan. 5, a miner reported finding what he thought were human remains in a remote area that only could be hiked into from the 3000 block of Old Military Road. Authorities surveyed the scene and collected Rice's remains the next day.

A deputy medical examiner was able to confirm Rice's identity through dental records. An autopsy was performed later that week.

Before her disappearance, Rice denied a place in the local foster care system, had been attempting to live on her own, managing a complex schedule of medications, for the first time in almost 10 years, Rice-Meilicke said.

Based on the information detectives had on Rice's mental health, the evidence at the scene, and the autopsy report, "we can conclude she got where she was (found) on her own," Fox said.

Rice-Meilicke said she long had suspected that her mother likely died of exposure, dehydrated and overheated on a blistering hot summer's day.

She is planning a celebration of life memorial for her mom and plans to continue to advocate on behalf Jackson County's mentally ill population.

"It's what my mom would have wanted," she said.

— Sanne Specht

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