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Final Chapter in Murdered Homeless Woman Closed

The family of 70-year-old Joan Anne Hughes was notified of her death after being estranged for more than 20 years.

The victim of an August homicide who was identified Thursday by the Santa Clara County medical examiner's office had estranged family members who were devastated by her death, according to medical examiner spokesman Sgt. Manuel Rey.

It took Rey and his colleagues months to identify 70-year-old Joan Anne Hughes, who was stabbed to death outside a San Jose Walgreens store where she often sat.

Hughes' death occurred on a particularly bloody week in San Jose, which included a shooting on Winchester Boulevard near the San Jose/Campbell. A second shooting near the border took place this Tuesday.

The coroner had issued a news release in September asking media to disseminate information about the woman's death with two sketch mugs hoping the public would help identify her.

According to Rey, his department's efforts to identify Hughes were hindered by a very unusual computer glitch.

"Everything we tried through normal channels came up empty," Rey said.

But about a week ago, the medical examiner's office turned the task over to the state Department of Justice, which was able to bypass the glitch and identify Hughes.

For more than a decade, Hughes was known as "Gail," with no known family. But after getting Hughes' identity, Rey said his office was able to locate her next of kin, among them a son who hadn't spoken to his mother since 1983.

"They took it hard. It's a double tragedy for them. First, she's deceased and second, it's how she died," Rey said.

Hughes was fatally stabbed at the Walgreens at the corner of West San Carlos Street and Meridian Avenue on the evening of Aug. 13.

Marquis Reynolds, 37, of San Jose, was arrested on suspicion of stabbing Hughes, was charged with murder and remains in custody, awaiting his Dec. 17 preliminary hearing.

Rey said that Hughes was originally from New York and had moved to California with her family. Then, sometime during the early 1980s, Hughes and her family became estranged.

"We're just happy we've gotten a name for her," he said.

-Bay City News Service and Mayra Flores De Marcotte

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