BEDFORD, Texas — Janet Love’s family did not worry too much when the fiercely independent Louisiana native moved to Texas in 1985.
“We knew that she was wise enough to take precautions and be as safe and careful as possible,” Love’s sister, Rebecca Roberts, told KDFW in Dallas.
Love’s precautions were all for naught. On April 24, 1986, after she failed to show up at work, concerned co-workers found the Delta ticket agent’s body in her apartment in Bedford, a suburb of Dallas and Fort Worth.
Love, 32, had been raped and shot to death.
The murder case went cold, but Bedford authorities announced Monday, more than 35 years after Love was slain, that DNA and genetic genealogy have identified her alleged killer.
Ray Anthony Chapa was 19 when Love was fatally attacked. According to Bedford police officials, Chapa lived less than 1,000 feet from Love in a neighboring apartment complex.
“Chapa had no known ties to the victim and was never considered a suspect until DNA technology revealed the truth,” Bedford Police Chief Jeff Williams said in a statement. “We are 100% sure this is the person who committed this terrible crime.
Chapa, 53, of nearby Bluffdale, died in January of a terminal illness, authorities said.
Bedford police Sgt. Brett Bowen told KDFW that Chapa worked odd jobs over the years. He had a criminal history including theft and drug possession.
His name never came up in the murder investigation.
“It’s probably best that he’s not alive, and that our family doesn’t have to go through a trial and all of the roller coaster of emotions that would come with that,” Roberts told the news station.
Bedford police officials said detectives followed numerous leads over the years as the case went through the hands of more than a dozen investigators. Love’s killer had left his DNA behind, but his genetic profile never matched anyone in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS.
Late last year, detectives learned of a grant, the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative, being offered through the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“The grant uses funds from the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct forensic genetic genealogy testing of DNA samples from unknown offenders that are linked to sexual assaults and sexually-related homicides,” Bedford police officials said.
The killer’s DNA profile allowed genealogists to establish the name of a potential suspect. Two of Chapa’s family members assisted detectives in a kinship analysis by the University of North Texas’ Center for Human Identification.
Chapa’s genetic link to the crime was confirmed in September.
“None of it’s going to bring her back, but it is some sense of justice,” Roberts told KDFW.
Chapa had previously lived in Chicago and Montana, KDFW reported. Bedford police officials are working with the FBI to determine if Chapa is tied to other crimes across the U.S.
“I am so grateful for all the detectives’ hard work and finally being able to bring closure to Janet’s family,” Williams said. “They’ve had to wait 35 years for this day.”
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