Better Funding, Organization Spurs Police, Medical Examiner to Get Cracking on Murder Cases That Have Nagged at Them for Years

Dallas County Medical Examiner Jeffrey Barnard believed there was a serial killer targeting elderly women in Dallas in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Police warned that someone might be attacking the city's older residents after a string of murders in 1986. Stella A. Smith, 83: raped and beaten to death in a Pleasant Grove home in June. Not two months later: Ora Derby, 84, stabbed to death on her bedroom floor. Derby and Smith are just two names on a list of more than a dozen unsolved murders Barnard never has far from his mind. He started privately documenting the cases years ago and tests old evidence whenever he can. There was finally a match in the 1992 slaying of a homeless woman, who Barnard believed was long ago forgotten. DNA evidence found on her body was matched to an imprisoned man in Alabama. It was the first case a new Dallas Police Department cold case squad filed and the beginning of a unified effort to tackle some of the city's unsolved murders using grant funding for evidence testing, which was once only used for testing a backlog of rape kits. The group of detectives are now investigating a list of cases similar to Barnard's. Most of the victims on his list are older women. Some were stabbed. Some were strangled. Many were raped. "That's what got me going, because I was convinced that there was a serial killer of elderly women," he said.   Continue reading...

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