Vermont Police Close Cold Case with DNA from Cigarette and Victim's Clothing Over 50 years after Rita Curran was strangled to death, police identified her killer.

By Steve Huff

spxChrome | Getty Images

Rita Curran, 24, was a Burlington, Vermont, elementary school teacher who was just beginning her career when her life was brutally cut short in July 1971. A roommate found her nude, beaten, and strangled to death. The case eventually went cold, languishing for over fifty years. Now, thanks to DNA and advancements in forensic research, Curran's killer has a name, according to Vermont investigators — William DeRoos.

There won't be any justice in the courtroom for Curran — DeRoos died in San Francisco in 1986 from a drug overdose.

In 1971 he was a 31-year-old newlywed living in the same building as Curran. DeRoos's story was that he and his wife had been together that night, and neither had heard anything.

According to CNN, one of the first big developments in the case occurred in 2014:

A break in the case finally came in 2014 when a DNA profile was extracted from a cigarette butt that had been found next to Curran's body, Detective Lt. James Trieb said at the news conference. Though the profile was submitted to a national criminal database for DNA, he said, no matches were made. That meant the person with that DNA likely never had genetic material entered into the database, possibly because the person didn't have a felony conviction.

In a Wednesday press conference, Detective Lt. James Trieb described how he began investigating the case in 2019, approaching Curran's murder as if it had just occurred.

According to his report on the investigation, Trieb discussed the case with detectives and "expert technicians."

Evidence was retested, and Trieb said his team used DNA found on a cigarette butt near Curran's body to do genetic genealogy.

Genetic genealogy is a research method that uses DNA test results to find relationships between individuals and to discover ancestral roots. By comparing genetic markers with those of others, genetic genealogy can trace family trees back through generations and across continents. In Curran's case, an expert tied DNA from the discarded cigarette to DeRoos's relatives on both sides. The expert was unequivocal, according to the police report, in saying the killer had to be the dead man.

After also finding DeRoos's DNA on Curran's torn housecoat, police re-interviewed his former wife, and she admitted she'd lied regarding his whereabouts in 1971.

This marks yet another cold case closed by combining DNA and genealogy research, the most famous perhaps being the 2018 arrest of Joseph DeAngelo, the Golden State Killer. Since DeAngelo's arrest, the new field has expanded in popularity and public recognition, as more unsolved crimes have been surprisingly solved after years of mystery.

Wavy Line
Steve Huff

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor's Pick

A Leader's Most Powerful Tool Is Executive Capital. Here's What It Is — and How to Earn It.
One Man's Casual Side Hustle Became an International Phenomenon — And It's on Track to See $15 Million in Revenue This Year
3 Reasons to Keep Posting on LinkedIn, Even If Nobody Is Engaging With You
Why a Strong Chief Financial Officer Is Crucial for Your Franchise — and What to Look for When Hiring One

Related Topics

Growing a Business

This Stock Screener is on Sale for Memorial Day

invest while mitigating risk with this top-rated stock screening app.

Starting a Business

5 Tips For Launching a Business While Keeping Your Day Job

Launching a business while holding down a 9-to-5 is no small feat. It's a common path for aspiring entrepreneurs, but it's not without its challenges.

Business News

The Virgin Islands Want to Serve Elon Musk a Subpoena, But They Can't Find Him

Government officials would like to talk to Tesla's owner as part of an investigation into the Jeffrey Epstein case.

Money & Finance

Want to Become a Millionaire? Follow Warren Buffett's 4 Rules.

Too many entrepreneurs are counting too heavily on a company exit for their eventual 'win.' Do this instead.


Why Time Management Doesn't Work — And How My Team Doubled Their Productivity Once I Started Doing This Instead

Time management is killing your productivity – here's why and what you need to do to increase your productivity instead.