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Colorado police solve four decades-old homicide cold cases with DNA from exhumed killer

Colorado have solved the decades-old cases of the deaths of four females, saying the killer was a man who died by suicide in jail in 1981

Jan 28, 2022

Using genetic genealogy and familial DNA, police in Colorado have solved the decades-old cases of the deaths of four females, saying the killer was a man who died by suicide in jail in 1981.

The three women and a teenage girl were stabbed to death between 1978 and 1981 in the Denver area. Police didn't divulge information about the cases Friday, but Denver Police Commander Matt Clark said there was an "underlying sexual component."

Police recently used DNA evidence to identify the killer as Joe Ervin, who took his own life 41 years ago after being arrested for the fatal shooting of a Aurora police officer.

Authorities exhumed Ervin's remains in late 2021 and found his DNA matched that found at the crime scenes.

"While the perpetrator cannot fully be held accountable for his despicable actions, we hope that knowing who is responsible can bring some peace to the families," Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said Friday at a news conference.

The killings had initially been investigated as separate cases. The deaths were tied together between 2013 and 2018 through DNA evidence. In 2019, the Denver Police Crime Laboratory learned of a "positive ancestry link" in Texas.

Two years later, authorities, while doing a search in Texas records for biological relatives of the killer's DNA profile, got a match of someone close to the then unidentified suspect.

Eventually, Ervin was identified as the possible killer and his remains were exhumed. Earlier this month, DNA analysis confirmed Ervin was the killer, police said.

The victims were Dolores Barajas, 53; Madeleine Furey-Livaudais, 33; Gwendolyn Harris, 27; and Antoinette Parks, 17. Police did not release a photo of Barajas at her family's request.

"We can finally have peace knowing who did this to my little sister," said George Journey, one of Parks' brothers. "I'd like you guys to know, we have closure."

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