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Murder of woman solved after more than 50 years using DNA found on a cigarette

Emma Guinness

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| Last updated 

Murder of woman solved after more than 50 years using DNA found on a cigarette

Featured Image Credit: Burlington Police / WMUR-TV

The decades-old murder of a school teacher whose killing was linked to the notorious Ted Bundy has finally been solved.

Rita Curran, 24, died way back in 1971 when she was strangled to death in her apartment by an assailant who was only recently identified thanks to DNA on a cigarette.

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Prior to being strangled, the teacher, who was also a talented singer, was beaten and sexually assaulted, and this resulted in one of the city of Vermont's most famous unsolved cases.

The cigarette butt that eventually cracked the case was found near Curran's body, but the technology to examine the item simply didn't exist at the time.

Testing of the butt revealed DNA from the 24-year-old's neighbour, William DeRoos, then 31, who had left his apartment on the night of the killing to 'cool off' after a fight with his wife.

Despite his history of violence and the fact that there was clear evidence of a 'vicious struggle', he was not identified as the killer until now - and at one point Ted Bundy was investigated in the case.

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Bundy was linked to the case as one detective thought she bore a resemblance to Bundy's first girlfriend, Diane Edwards.

But Investigators have now said that they are 'unanimously certain' that DeRoos murdered the young woman, according to a report released on Tuesday (21 February).

The teacher was said to also be a talented singer. Credit: Vermont State Police
The teacher was said to also be a talented singer. Credit: Vermont State Police

According to reports, while DeRoos, who lived in the apartment above Curran, was interviewed three times over the decades, he maintained that he and his wife didn't hear or see anything related to the case.

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As well as the DNA on the cigarette, DeRoos was linked to the crime scene through DNA found on his victim's torn clothing.

But while the identification of DeRoos will provide some comfort to Curran's family, unfortunately, he died before he could be brought to justice for his actions.

Brandon del Pozo, who oversaw the case for four years until 2019, told The Daily Beast on Tuesday (21 February): "Rita's killer may be dead but if this is all the justice Burlington police can offer her spirit and her loved ones, then so be it."

Ted Bundy was once a suspect in the case. Credit: Alamy / IanDagnall Computing
Ted Bundy was once a suspect in the case. Credit: Alamy / IanDagnall Computing
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"Unless the police keep their memory alive and continue the investigation, the victims of unsolved murders are often lost to time.

"I'm so proud of the Burlington detectives who kept Rita's case open while I served as chief, traveling in [and around] the country to collect comparison DNA and re-interview witnesses, and who never stopped until today," he added.

"The Burlington Police Department never forgot about Rita."

Topics: News, US News, True crime, Crime, Ted Bundy

Emma Guinness
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