Westminster cold case murder solved after nearly 50 years

Posted at 2:30 PM, Jan 31, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-31 17:50:36-05

WESTMINSTER, Colo. — Sadly, like many of these cases of the era, what started as a hitch-hiking venture turned into a murder case, a case that went unsolved for nearly 50 years. But the Westminster Police Department announced that thanks to genetic genealogy, investigators finally have answers.

Westminster police on Wednesday identified the man who killed 20-year-old Terre Becker in 1975 as Thomas Elliott, who took his own life in 1991 at the age of 41. His body was exhumed in Las Vegas where he was linked to a second murder.

On Dec. 4, 1975, Becker — who grew up in Wyoming and moved to the Denver area after graduating high school — was hitchhiking to see her boyfriend who was incarcerated at the Adams County Jail in Brighton. But that was the last time anyone saw the 20-year-old Casper native.

About two days after she went missing, two motorcyclists came upon Becker’s body in a field in the area of Lowell Boulevard and West 100th Avenue. Her body had been dumped in the field, along with her clothing and personal items. During her autopsy, it was determined Becker had been raped, and her cause of death was asphyxiation, according to police.

After the discovery of her body, the Becker case was slowly turning cold with a lack of solid leads. That was the state of the case up until 2003 when the Colorado Bureau of Investigation was able to extract DNA from an unknown male originating off of a piece of evidence that was collected related to the rape, police said.

That DNA was run through the CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database, but no match was found. But about ten years later, Las Vegas police submitted DNA from a 1991 murder case in their city which matched the DNA from the 2003 submission. But there was no name associated with the DNA sample.

Twenty years later, in 2023, Elliott was identified as the unknown male DNA in both the Westminster and Las Vegas homicides. Elliot was identified using genetic genealogy, an investigative technique that measures the amount of DNA that is shared between two people.

Elliott spent a large portion of his life in and out of the prison system, according to police. Shortly after Becker’s murder, Elliott was convicted of a burglary in Lakewood and spent six years in prison. He was locked up again in Las Vegas in 1981 for a crime against a child. He was released in 1991 when he was linked to his second rape and murder of a woman in Las Vegas.

Unfortunately, Becker’s immediate family is no longer alive to receive the news that their daughter’s killer has been identified, according to Westminster police.

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