Breakthrough in Cold Case: Registered Sex Offender Charged with Murder
- Annette Thur, 17, was hitchhiking home when John William Kelley kidnapped and raped her on December 6, 1986
- Investigators retested seminal fluid from the crime scene and found that Kelley, who was convicted for rape in 1995, was a match
By Emine Sinmaz
A registered sex offender has been charged with the death of 17-year-old Annette Thur who was raped, sodomized and suffocated more than a quarter of a century ago.
John William Kelley, a convicted rapist, was charged last Friday with first-degree murder in the case of the teenager whose body was found dumped down a roadside embankment in remote San Mateo County, California, on December 6, 1986.
The 49-year-old man from Placerville, California, who did not enter a plea, faces the death penalty or life without parole if he is convicted.
The breakthrough in the cold case came after investigators took a sample of seminal fluid from the crime scene and ran it through the state's ever-expanding DNA database, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
A $217,000 federal grant allowed the fluid to be retested – and Kelley was found to be the match.
Although the fluid had been tested at the time, investigators had found no match as Kelley's DNA was not in the system until he was convicted of rape in 1995.
Kelley, who has had several run-ins with police, pleaded guilty to raping an acquaintance at his home in Humboldt County in 1995 and received a six-year prison sentence.
Justice: Annette¿s mother Patty Dombrowski had waited 26 years for her daughter¿s case to be solved
‘We are constantly resubmitting things because the database changes,’ San Mateo County Sheriff's Lt. Larry Schumaker told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.
Kelley had also been convicted of statutory rape and sexual battery in 1986, just three months before Annette’s murder. But that charge only led to a three-month sentence and three years’ probation.
Annette’s mother Patty Dombrowski has waited 26 agonizing years for her daughter’s case to be solved.
The 59-year-old from Waynesville, Georgia, could not stop crying when she found out that a suspect had been arrested.
Location: Thur's body was found was found by a passerby along a remote stretch of Skyline Boulevard near Alpine Road in the Santa Cruz Mountains, California
‘It's like a dark Christmas. It's sad,’ the mother who sleeps beside a photo of Annette told the San Mateo County Times.
‘I have waited all these years for the person who did this, for the animal who attacked and killed my child to face any kind of consequences. It's incredible.’
Her daughter's horrifying ordeal occurred in the early hours of December 6 when Annette was trying to hitchhike home after a party.
That is when Kelley kidnapped the teenager, and raped, sodomized and suffocated her at his home before dumping her body. Her corpse was found by a tourist that same day.
Kelley remains in San Mateo County jail without bail and is scheduled back in court August 28 to enter a plea.