Nine-year-old Debbie Lynn Randall was walking home from a laundromat a half-block from her Georgia home in 1972 when she was snatched off the street, raped, and strangled to death.
The freckle-faced third-grader’s body was found 16 days later—but the question of who killed her remained a mystery for more than half a century.
“Debbie Lynn’s parents died without knowing who killed their little girl,” Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady said at a news conference.
But in what has become a familiar chain of events, police say that they have figured out who did murder the girl—thanks to genetic genealogy techniques that match the DNA profile of an unknown suspect to profiles of possible relatives on popular ancestry sites.
After creating a family tree for the suspect, investigators determined he was likely William Rose, who was 24 at the time of the slaying and who killed himself two years later for unknown reasons. He was never a suspect in the case.
“He was not on our radar at all,” said Ron Alter, a cold case investigator in the DA’s office.
They exhumed his body and made a 100 percent match with a small piece of cloth found with Debbie Lynn’s remains that was preserved for 50 years.
Debbie Lynn’s brother, Melvin, was on hand for the announcement that one of Cobb County’s oldest mysteries had be solved.
“I wish my mother was here but I know she knows in heaven now that it’s finally over,” he said.