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Girl’s killer identified more than 50 years after her kidnapping in Georgia

Investigators have identified the killer of a 9-year-old girl more than 50 years after she was abducted less than a block from her Georgia home, officials said Monday.

Debbie Lynn Randall, a third-grader, disappeared on Jan. 13, 1972, Cobb County Prosecutor Flynn Broady said. She was coming back from a laundromat. Randall’s body was found 16 days later after an extensive search by thousands of people. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

“Over time, detectives followed hundreds of leads to no avail,” Broady said.

Debbie Lynn Randall

Cobb County Prosecutor’s Office

This has changed with advances in DNA and forensic technology. During the initial investigation, Marietta Police Department officers recovered a hair from the suspect and a piece of cloth, Broady said. An FBI hair test in October 2001 allowed investigators to rule out many potential suspects.

In May 2015, tissue recovered by police was sent to forensics for updated analysis, which resulted in a partial profile attributed to an unknown man. Additional funding was secured for DNA testing in 2019 and the tissue was analyzed again in 2022. This year, DNA Labs International was selected to conduct additional testing.

They were able to track down relatives of the suspect, officials said. These relatives gave investigators additional DNA samples for comparison. Investigators zeroed in on a man who had never been on their radar during the investigation: 24-year-old William Rose. He committed suicide in 1974.

“We have exhumed the suspect’s body to conduct DNA testing to rule out any doubt,” Broady said.

Debbie Lynn Randall’s parents died without ever knowing who killed their daughter, Broady said. His mother died of leukemia in 2018, and his father died last year.

“The answers provided today will not bring her back and we cannot get justice from the abuser, but I know he must answer to a higher power,” Broady said.

Randall’s brother, Melvin, was at the news conference Monday when William Rose was identified.

“I wish my mom was here but I know she’s in heaven now and it’s finally over and we just want to say we thank you all for what you did to make this day happen. realizes,” he said.

Ron Alter, a cold case investigator with the district attorney’s office, doesn’t believe Rose knew Randall. Rose had family members in the area, so he was probably there often.

“If he walked by, I’m sure he saw her. I think it was a crime of opportunity. He saw her alone and kidnapped her,” Alter said.

Rose had previously been arrested for alcohol-related incidents. Alter said it was possible Alter killed himself because he was afraid of going to prison.

Both Alter and Broady attributed the success of this case to advances in DNA testing. Broady stressed that these tools will be used to investigate other cases.

“It may take us a while, but with new technologies emerging every day, we’re going to do everything we can to resolve our cold cases, to make sure we bring people to justice,” Broady said.


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