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Denver police: Suspect identified in four cold case killings

January 28, 2022 GMT

DENVER (AP) — Denver police say they have identified a man responsible for killing three women and a 17-year-old girl in separate incidents between 1978 and 1981 by using DNA technology and genealogy to link the cold cases to a single suspect.

The man, Joe Michael Ervin, killed himself in a suburban Denver jail in 1981 while under investigation for another slaying— the shooting death of an Aurora police officer, the Denver Police Department announced Friday.

The officer, Debra Sue Corr, was killed as she tried to arrest Ervin during a traffic stop when Ervin grabbed her gun and shot her.

Police identified the four other victims as 33-year-old Madeleine Furey-Livaudais, 53-year-old Dolores Barajas, 27-year-old Gwendolyn Harris and 17-year-old Antoinette Parks. All but Parks were stabbed to death in Denver; Parks was stabbed to death in neighboring Adams County.

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Police said they linked the four cases through DNA evidence between 2013 and 2018. Using genetic genealogy, they identified a biological relative of the then-unknown suspect in Texas. Ervin’s remains were exhumed in Texas late last year, and DNA from the remains and from the crime scenes confirmed his identity as the suspect in the four slayings.

“While we recognize that identifying the suspect will not bring these ladies back, we hope it provides closure and healing for their loved ones and the Denver community,” Police Chief Paul Pazen said in a statement.

A telephone call to police seeking information about Ervin wasn’t immediately returned.

Police said Furey-Livaudais, a wife and mother of two, was killed at her Denver home in December 1978. Barajas was killed while walking to work in August 1980. In December 1980, Harris was found stabbed to death on a street corner about one block from Ervin’s residence at the time. In January 1981, Parks was found stabbed to death several miles (kilometers) north of downtown Denver. She was six to seven months’ pregnant at the time.

“I’m angered because he didn’t face justice,” Parks’ brother George Journey told KCNC-TV. “But I know my mom and family wouldn’t want us angry. They’d want us to be happy that this is all brought to a close.”

Ervin killed himself on July 1, 1981, in the Adams County Detention Center just days after Corr’s slaying. He had been arrested at his home in Aurora while trying to saw a handcuff Corr had placed on his wrist before he grabbed her gun.

“With her sacrifice, (Corr) prevented him from killing anyone else, and it’s clear he wasn’t going to stop on his own,” Molly Livaudais, a daughter of Furey-Livaudais, said Friday, The Denver Post reported.