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Patricia Marie "Patty" Hicks Dahlstrom (June 1, 1954- c. September 1982) was a woman who was located at Yosemite National Park in 1983. Additional remains were found in 1988.

She was identified with assistance from Parabon NanoLabs at the end of April 2021, but her identity wasn't released at the time per her family's request. Hicks' identity was eventually revealed on the Hulu series Wild Crime on October 26, 2022.

Disappearance[]

Hicks last contacted family in September 1982 after relocating to Merced, California from Washington. She had joined a religious following, the San Anda Apostolic Church, founded by Donald Gibson, believed to have been motivated by the trauma she suffered surrounding the suicide of her brother. She also had a short-lived marriage to a former high school friend, divorcing in 1974. Other close friends stated her personality to have changed significantly after these events, and described her to be vulnerable and likely to misplace trust after these occurrences.

The group has been described as a cult; residents of Merced reported having unfavorable opinions of Gibson and those associated with him. Allegedly, members were recruited based on attractiveness, and the males, at least, with the added bonuses of drugs and sex. Additional accounts of activities included arranged marriages and sexual rituals. Most members refused communication with law enforcement and documentary filmmakers. Additionally, Hicks’ surviving family members opted out of appearing on Wild Crime, and the victim’s identity was withheld until the season was released in October 2022.

In December 1980, several members of the group were arrested, including Hicks. A probe into the religious organization began after three underage males informed police that Donald Gibson had given them LSD and at least one had been sexually assaulted while unconscious upon first meeting the leader of this community. Additional sexual assaults and activities were performed under a religious pretense. Gibson was tried the following September and convicted of four sexual offenses by early October. It is believed that many of his followers remained loyal out of fear or by manipulation; the prosecuting attorney described him to be capable of violence against someone who betrayed him. Gibson subsequently jumped bail following his conviction to avoid being sentenced. He has never been located; members of the investigation have expressed concern of being involved in Hicks’ death, whether directly or by proxy.

After Gibson went on the run, Hicks made the decision to leave the area, to the dismay of her unnamed roommate of several years who also belonged to the religious following. The roommate had become close to the victim during the time they spent together. The witness believed Hicks planned on taking public transportation to the park her remains were later found in, but the specific location to which she intended to arrive at was never confirmed.

Discovery[]

A severed arm and hand were recovered from Yosemite National Park during the summer of 1983. The remains were severely decomposed, and animal predation was also likely. The remains were estimated to have been at the scene since approximately 1982. Examination suggested the arm and hand belonged to a petite, adult female, although this was not definite. By 1988, a skull that also belonged to an adult female was discovered near the original scene, and it was presumed they belonged to the same person. The skull appeared to belong to an individual in their late teens to twenties, of European or Hispanic descent. In 2009, DNA analysis confirmed both sets of remains belonged to the same person.

Investigation[]

After the remains went unidentified for several years, the investigation into learning the victim’s identity stalled, although suspects were being considered within a year of her discovery. At an early point in the case, Stacy Arras, who went missing from the area under suspicious circumstances in 1981 was considered as a potential match, but she was ruled out.

After the cranium was discovered in 1988, a clay rendering was created with an approximation of the lower jaw, which was never recovered. A dark wig was incorporated into the reconstruction, as it could not be excluded that she was possibly Hispanic.

NCMEC later created an updated facial reconstruction of the victim, which was influenced by the possibility she was Hispanic. The rendering was not made publicly available until 2022. Parabon NanoLabs would later perform phenotype testing in the case, determining the victim was of only European descent, with naturally blond hair and blue eyes. Genetic genealogy led to a potential match, later confirmed in April 2021.

Additional suspects[]

Henry Lee Lucas confessed to the woman's murder, also implicating his companion, Ottis Toole. He claimed the crime occurred between 1980 and 1981 and reportedly led officers to the crime scene after being transported to the vicinity. He claimed she was hitchhiking and picked up between Corona and the park. Lucas stated he strangled her after they spent time drinking and had a disagreement about leaving Yosemite.

Lucas would falsely confess to as many as 3,000 murders under the coercion of local police. He later claimed responsibility for three murders, excluding this victim.[1] When Lucas’ movements were reviewed by investigators, it was noted that he would have had a “window of opportunity” to commit the crime, and some consistencies existed between his statements and the evidence at the scene. Budweiser beer cans were discovered near the remains, which happened to be his drink of choice. Testing of these cans is currently underway.

Hicks’ former roommate described her as being unlikely to have consumed alcohol, according to staunch religious beliefs held even after Donald Gibson’s community dissolved. Both members of the original investigative team as well as the current investigator have affirmed their belief of Lucas’ responsibility, citing his recollection of the crime scene, although there are various other confessions he made based on being exposed to photographs and other details by members of the Texas-based task force accused of mishandling and falsifying information to suggest his guilt.

In 1999, Cary Stayner, 37 at the time, murdered a trio of females and a member of the Yosemite National Park staff. Investigators have expressed belief that he may have additional victims that remain unaccounted for, especially given the fact that similar offenders began their violent crimes at much younger ages. Stayner coincidentally attended Donald Gibson’s trial in 1981. The Stayner and Gibson families were acquainted at the time, and it has been suggested that the future killer may have found motivation to harm those such as Patty Hicks for testifying. Besides this circumstantial information, as well as them residing in the same town with some level of familiarity with Yosemite, there is no additional evidence to link Cary Stayner to the case conclusively.

Gallery[]

Media[]

  • The case was featured as the subject of season 2 of Wild Crime in October 2022.

Sources[]

  1. “War in Waco.” The Confession Killer, season 1, episode 3, Netflix, 6 Dec. 2019.
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