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Detectives say DNA testing solved a 40-year-old Spokane cold case

62-year-old Tracy Sabron Pruitt was arrested on murder and fugitive charges for the death of a Spokane businessman Archie Rutherford in 1982.

SPOKANE COUNTY, Wash. — The Spokane Police Department (SPD) is reporting that a suspect in a 1982 cold case has been arrested in Los Angeles. Court documents detail how DNA helped Spokane police identify the suspect. 

62-year-old Tracy Pruitt is accused of killing Archie Rutherford at his South Hill home he shared with his wife, back in 1982. SPD announced Pruitt's arrest Wednesday. He is now charged with first-degree murder.

Court documents describe Rutherford's murder as "very gruesome and violent." For 40 years, investigators didn't have any strong leads to a murder suspect. That's until they ran a DNA test in 2022.

On May 25, 1982, Rutherford's wife, Eleanor, returned from a trip to Seattle. She expected her husband to pick her up from the airport, but he never showed up. A friend brought her home and that's when she noticed her Honda was gone. 

When she went inside, she found whiskey bottles in the front room and bloody knives in the dining room. She then discovered her husband's body in the bedroom.

An autopsy determined Rutherford suffered multiple injuries, including several stab wounds to his neck.

Spokane detectives took a new look at the evidence in 2022. The Washington State Patrol (WSP) crime lab tested DNA from the crime scene in February and got results back in June. A match report confirmed the blood found in the kitchen was Pruitt's DNA. 

One set of fingerprints found on the victim's stolen Honda also matched Pruitt's, according to court documents.

Pruitt's name came up in this investigation even before the DNA match this year. In 1982, his name first came up as a result of an investigation into unauthorized use of Rutherford's stolen credit cards after his death, according to court documents. 

Spokane police investigated the murder but did not make any arrests at that time. Pruitt was arrested in Ohio for an unrelated rape and robbery charge later that year. He was convicted for those crimes and spent 27 years behind bars.

Once the DNA match came back this year, Spokane police coordinated his arrest with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Pruitt would have been 22 years old at the time of Rutherford's death. Investigators believe this was a random murder because they found no evidence that the two knew each other. Additionally, Pruitt's name never came up in interviews with Rutherford's coworkers or friends.

Pruitt remains in custody in California awaiting extradition. His extradition process may take several months to determine if and when the state of California will relinquish custody of Pruitt to Washington.

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