DNA clues being tested in 43-year-old cold case




Posted on November 4, 2013 at 5:09 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 5 at 12:00 PM

SPOKANE, Wash. -- A Spokane County Major Crimes Detective is digging into a 43-year-old cold case involving the murder of a little boy. New DNA samples are being tested to help lead detectives to the boy’s killer.

It was 1970 when David Willoughby left his home in on North Elm to hike with a friend to the Spokane Airport to watch planes come and go. Somewhere along the way, Willoughby’s friend turned back. Willoughby kept going.

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A driver remembered seeing the little boy walking alone in the Sunset Hill area along Highway 2. Then, Willoughby disappeared.

Willoughby’s body was found discarded in the tangled underbrush of Pend Oreille County Park 18 days after he went missing. He had been strangled and sexually assaulted. The Spokane Coroner’s Office said Willoughby was alive for 8 to 10 days after his disappearance.

Spokane County Major Crimes Detective Kirk Keyser is hoping to bring Willoughby’s killer to justice. The fact that the boy was murder 43 years ago is part of what is driving him to solve the case.

“This one stuck with me for some reason,” said Detective Keyser, “Probably because it occurred the year I was born. I could relate to when I saw his picture and saw the clothing in the 1970’s. I could relate to it.”

The old case file holds a key to a green or blue 1957 Nash Rambler Station Wagon.  After Willoughby’s body was found, a few people reported seeing him the day he was taken in that same car. Detectives identified a person of interest but the trail went cold.

“Without modern technology that we have today the detectives weren’t able to continue the investigation,” said Detective Keyser.

Detective Keyser has the benefit of DNA technology that the previous detectives did not have. It turns out, the person of interest in Willoughby’s murder died. Detective Keyser tracked down a relative of that man to collect DNA and it was submitted to be compared with the original DNA evidence.  The age of the original DNA may not bring conclusive results, but for the first time in decades there is promise.

Detective Keyser said there would be nothing better than delivering the answers to Willoughby’s family.

“I’m sure tremendous closure for them and also a great feeling of accomplishment for me,” said Detective Keyser.

Solving Willoughby’s murder could be the catalyst to closing other cold cases. The detective feels the profile of Willoughby’s killer looks like someone who committed the crime before.

“It’s my belief if I solve this case and I determine who that suspect is then that may open some other agencies around this state and some other states,” said Detective Keyser.

Detective Keyser is still waiting for DNA results from the state crime lab. Spokane County Detectives have roughly 30 unsolved homicides dating back to the 1950s.