Snagged beer mug solves cold rape and murder case 40 years after, with DNA matching

Detectives say that technology and simple police work solved the case

The suspect of a 1980 cold murder case of a young intern in Colorado has been solved now after a genetic genealogy report. The intern by name, Pruszynski, was murdered 40 years ago but lack of scientific evidence or know-how kept the case unresolved.

In 1980, Helene Pruszynski, a 21-year-old girl from Massachusetts started out in Colorado as an intern with a radio station. She was going home from her work when she was abducted by the killer. Pruszynski was raped and murdered by James Curtis Clanton, 62. A beer mug served as the main evidence behind the capture of the killer. Along with the mug, there was a sketch made over 40 years ago of the suspect, which resembled Clanton.

Pruszynski who was a senior in Wheaton College in Norton, was new to Colorado when she was murdered by Clanton who was a landscaper at that time. She had moved to to Colorado just two weeks before the attack. Clanton, who was previously convicted for rape had moved to Douglas County during his bail period.

Dougulas County, Colorado
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Moving in on Clanton

The killer is suspected of various deaths that happened in the region. He was watched for several days before the police caught up to Clanton. The required DNA evidence was obtained after the detectives worked with the bartender during Clanton's visit to a bar on November 30, where he drank several beers. According to the affidavit, sample taken matched the DNA taken from the crime scene.

It had taken the detectives nearly two years to capture the required sample to prove Clanton's involvement in the murder. The detectives searched for any potential matches for the evidence taken from the crime scene in the genealogy testing website, GEDmatch. Although there was no direct hit on the evidence, several of Clanton's potential relatives popped up as a result.

Rape victim
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Detectives had to move through a complicated family tree to reach to Clanton. Previously called Curtis White, he lived with his father as an infant and later with his uncle and aunt till he was 13. According to the affidavit that was submitted, Clanton was a chronic runaway and referred to his uncle as his father.

'Clanton was never a violent guy'

Clanton has a criminal history which most of his family friends are not aware of. He had been convicted on rape in 1975 and was on bail when he moved to Douglas County. Although he was convicted for 30 years in prison and 10 years suspended, he was released on parole after 4 years. Clanton raped Helene in January 1980, after moving to Douglas a year before. She was stabbed several times and tied when she was found in a field in Daniels Park Road in Castle Pines. A witness had given a description of the suspect in 1980 which looked strikingly similar to Clanton.

There were several similar incidents in the locality with no reported suspect. The killer was previously accused of domestic violence in 1998 and 2001. A family friend who talked to Denver Post, said that they were not aware of Clanton's criminal record. The detectives said that his brother had a criminal record as well. Detectives also said that Clanton was caught because of team effort in police and because of DNA technology.