DNA detectives make an arrest 41 years after teen killing

DNA detectives make an arrest 41 years after teen killing

After more than 40 years, Alaska State Troopers have arrested a man in the cold-case mystery of a teenager’s killing, reports KTUU.

Shelley Connolly, aged 16 years old, went missing on the 7th January 1978. The next day, her body was discovered by hikers down the embankment of a highway pullout south of Anchorage. Her mother, Judy Connolly, had come to terms with the fact that she might never see her daughter’s killer brought to justice. She’s now expressed great relief at discovering that a suspect has been arrested in Oregon.

The teenager had told her mother she was going roller skating, but instead had gone to a local bar and then a Diner. An autopsy revealed she’d suffered greatly in the hours leading up to her death. She’d been raped, beaten and dragged from a moving car. She then lay dying for hours in freezing winter temperatures.

Advances in DNA testing make a breakthrough

Traditional DNA testing had ruled out any suspects as crime databases yielded no matches. However, in December 2018, a relatively new type of DNA technology, known as genetic genealogy analysis, was used to search for relatives of an unknown individual who’d left DNA on Shelley Connolly’s body.

Within months, the DNA search led investigators to 62-year-old Donald McQuade, who lived in Anchorage at the time of the murder. He was a match to DNA found under Shelley’s nails, on her jeans and on her body. He’s since been charged with first- and second-degree murder and will be brought to Alaska for trial.

Judy Connolly said that the quest for clues and answers had seemed like a dead end. The subsequent arrest is totally unexpected and brings great relief.

“I really was flabbergasted”, Judy Connolly said at a press conference following the arrest.

“I can’t begin to imagine how painful it has been over the years knowing what happened to Shelley, and for her case to remain seemingly unnoticed. While I can announce this outcome today, it does not make up for the years of pain they faced”, Alaska State Trooper Col. Barry Wilson said during the press conference.

Public Safety Commissioner Amanda Price said the arrest shows investigators never gave up.

“Even when it felt like her case was sitting silent, the loss of Shelley was felt throughout the halls of this department, and never did the work cease in finding who hurt Shelley”. She said. “What happened to Shelley mattered to this state, it mattered to this department, and it mattered to the men and women who consistently worked on this case and who never gave up hope.”

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