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Crime News Breaking News

Kansas Man Arrested For 1983 Murder That Was Falsely Attributed To A Notorious Serial Killer

Thomas Elvin Darnell now faces capital murder charges in Montgomery County, authorities said.

By Dorian Geiger
Thomas Darnell Pd

Nearly 40 years after a Texas woman’s body was found burning in the woods, her alleged killer was arrested this week in Kansas City and returned to the state to face trial. 

Thomas Elvin Darnell, 75, was taken into custody on capital murder charges this week related to the 1983 slaying of Laura Marie Purchase, according to KXXV

Purchase’s naked body was found on fire in a wooded area near Interstate 45 in Conroe, Texas on March 17, 1983, authorities said. The Houston woman had been sexually assaulted and choked, according to a medical examiner’s report. Her body had been discovered “posed” at the scene, according to investigators, KTRK-TV reported

Traces of genetic material from her assailant was recovered from her body, and it took more than three years for the FBI to identify that the corpse was Purchase; her fingerprints ultimately led to her identity being discovered. Authorities learned that Purchase was last seen alive on March 5, 1983. She’d reportedly been living with a man named Howie or Howard, who was a musician in a band called Malibu, according to the outlet.

The so-called "Confession Killer," Henry Lee Lucas allegedly admitted to murdering Purchase and was ultimately convicted in her killing. In 2008, investigators learned Lucas’s DNA didn’t match the genetic evidence found at the crime scene.

More than a decade passed before authorities received any promising leads. It was the DNA evidence, used in new genealogical testing, that pointed to Darnell as Purchase’s killer. It's unclear how the two may have known each other. 

On March 17 — the 38th anniversary of Purchase’s murder — Texas investigators traveled to Kansas City to obtain a DNA sample from Darnel, according to KTRK-TV. In April, the test results indicated a positive match. 

Darnell was arrested on May 11, according to police. He’s since been extradited to Texas.

Darnell was booked into a Montgomery County jailhouse on May 20, according to records obtained by Oxygen.com. He’s being held without bond. 

A spokesperson for the FBI didn’t immediately respond to questions regarding the case on Friday afternoon.

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