She was 17 years old and dressed for a high school Valentine's dance on the night she was pulled from her boyfriend's car and kidnapped, two days before her strangled and sexually assaulted body was found abandoned in a culvert.
But for 46 years, police in Forth Worth, Texas, could pin no blame in the death of Carla Walker.
That changed on Monday when they arrested 77-year-old Glen Samuel McCurley, and credited advances in genealogy and DNA testing for allegedly connecting him to the crime.
"Thank you, Jesus," Carla's brother, Jim Walker, said Tuesday at a news conference announcing the arrest. "When I was notified, the word that came across my mind was 'finally.' Finally. After 46 years, finally."
McCurley, now jailed on a capital murder charge in Tarrant County on a $100,000 bond, had been an early suspect and questioned in Carla's Feb. 17, 1974, abduction following the dance at Western Hills High School. It was unclear if he'd entered a plea, and an attorney for him was not named in jail records.
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Carla and her boyfriend were parked outside a bowling alley when a man opened the passenger door and pulled her out, telling the boyfriend, "I am going to kill you," and then pistol-whipping him, according to an arrest warrant affidavit, reports WFAA.
The boy passed out. Police on the scene discovered a magazine for a 22-caliber Ruger, and determined that McCurley, a previously convicted car thief who lived about a mile from the bowling alley, had purchased such a gun.
Interviewed in 1974, McCurley said his gun had been stolen while he was fishing, but he didn't report it because he was an ex-con, according to the arrest warrant.
Police learned McCurley was off work the night of the kidnapping and again the next day, and that his wife was out of town at the time. He denied any involvement.
He never fell off the radar, however. Over the years, detectives ran preserved DNA evidence from the victim's clothing through several databases — and one genealogy database eventually linked to three brothers with the McCurley surname as possible matches, according to the arrest warrant.
“DNA has been around since the mid-'80s but there are continual advances in how they attempt to find that DNA and also how they extract that DNA,” said detective Leah Wagner, reports KDFW. “So it was these newer processes that enabled us to get a profile.”
Police obtained a sample of McCurley's DNA from his trash in July. When it was found to match the DNA on the victim, they questioned him again Sept. 10, when he once more denied involvement but offered a voluntary DNA swab.
Once more, it matched with the DNA found on the victim's clothing.
“I would like to sit here and tell you, no, I never gave up hope — but there were times, there were really dark times, watching the pain of my mom,” said Carla's brother Jim, whose parents and another brother died in the interim without ever seeing an arrest.
"We are praying for you; we don’t hate you," he said of the suspect and the suspect's family, which includes a wife and two children. "I hope that the City of Fort Worth has prayers for the family. It's not their fault. We’ll see justice served with prayers and forgiveness."
"We forgive him for what he's done," he told WFAA. "I really hope that one day when I'm in heaven … I want to see Glen there, too."
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