CHERRY HILLS VILLAGE, Colo. — Sylvia Quayle's father found her dead at her home in Cherry Hills Village on Aug. 4, 1981. Nearly 40 years later, Quayle's family is finally getting closure.
Police on Thursday announced the arrest of a Nebraska man in Quayle's killing, a suspect investigators found through genealogy analysis of a DNA sample found at the crime scene.
David Dwayne Anderson, 62, was taken into custody on Feb. 10 on a charge of first-degree murder. He is awaiting extradition to Colorado.
Quayle was 34 years old when she died. Her murder went cold for decades but was recently brought to the forefront when investigators partnered with United Data Connect, a genetic genealogy group founded by former Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey.
Morrissey on Thursday said United Data Connect uploaded the DNA sample found at the crime scene to two ancestry databases, FamilyTreeDNA and GEDMatch. Both websites are open-source genealogy resources. When United Data Connect narrowed the results to a cousin of the DNA found at the crime scene, investigators traced the match to Anderson.
Police then obtained a DNA sample from Anderson and it matched with the DNA found at the crime scene, Morrissey said.
"This was a team effort that spanned course of 40 years," said Police Chief Michelle Tovrea.
Tovrea said that even when Quayle's case went cold, it was never forgotten.
Quayle died of stab wounds and a gunshot wound, according to an arrest warrant affidavit in the case.
DNA from the case was uploaded in 2001 to the FBI's Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS, but no match was found.
Last year, United Data Connect began working with police on the case and identified Anderson through genetic genealogy.
In January, Robert Fuller, an investigator for United Data Connect, traveled to Cozad, Neb., where Anderson was living, and obtained two bags of Anderson's trash that were dumped in his apartment building's dumpster, the affidavit said.
Fuller then met with Matthew Hanagan, the criminal investigator for the 18th Judicial District Attorney's Office, and gave him 15 items potentially containing DNA — including empty bottles of beer and spiced rum and a can of vanilla Coke — that he collected from Anderson's trash.
The DNA from Anderson's trash matched the DNA from the crime scene, which was obtained through semen samples, according to the affidavit.
Morrissey said the police detectives did "a wonderful job" pursuing the leads that were developed through United Data Connect's genealogy work.
"As an old prosecutor, to meet Sylvia's family today means a lot to me, " Morrissey said. "When I read this case and realized that her father found her in the condition that I know she was in — the way that she was left — after being brutalized and killed, I can’t imagine, as a father myself of a young woman about this age, to have a morning like that."
District Attorney John Kellner said the Quayle case proved that investigators won't ever give up on a case.
"My message to family members of victims out there: This team will never stop seeking justice for you," Kellner said. "This team will never stop trying to identify people who have taken members of the community away."