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Crime News Cold Cases

Man Arrested For Washington Businessman’s 'Very Gruesome And Violent' 1982 Murder

The wife of 58-year-old Archie Rutherford found him in their "blood-soaked bed" with an electrical cord tied around his neck. Officials now say DNA has led to the arrest of Tracy Pruitt, who served 27 years in prison for an unrelated rape and robbery. 

By Jax Miller
How To Use DNA To Crack A Case

A man in Los Angeles is under arrest for the 40-year-old murder of a Spokane businessman, according to Washington state officials.

Tracy Sabron Pruitt, 62, was arrested on Oct. 27 on charges of first-degree murder, the Spokane Police Department announced Wednesday. Pruitt, of Los Angeles, is accused of the 1982 cold case murder of Archie Rutherford, 58, who was found dead in his South Hill neighborhood home in Spokane.

On May 25, 1982, Rutherford’s wife, Eleanor Rutherford, returned to their 27th Street address following a three-day trip away from the home, according to The Spokesman-Review. Mrs. Rutherford, a former Spokesman-Review columnist, found her husband naked in the “blood-soaked bed” of their bedroom with an electrical cord wrapped around his neck.

A postmortem examination revealed Rutherford sustained fatal stab wounds, as well as a fractured skull. At the time, investigators believed Rutherford was asleep when a blow to the head rendered him unconscious for the remainder of the attack.

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Lois Shanks, the coroner at the time, told the Spokesman-Review that Rutherford was repeatedly stabbed in the head and neck.

Officials referred to the murder as “very gruesome and violent,” according to court records obtained by CBS Spokane affiliate KREM. Bloody knives, open liquor bottles and a shattered decanter were also found in various parts of the home.

Whoever killed Rutherford seemingly left in the victim’s Honda, which was missing from the driveway. The stolen vehicle was recovered a short time later, about four miles away.

A police handout of Tracy Pruitt

Rutherford’s murder remained unsolved for years, until a new look using DNA linked Pruitt to the crime in 2022, Spokane Police spokeswoman Julie Humphreys told the Spokesman-Review. Per KREM, a match came in June after the Washington State Patrol crime lab tested the suspect’s blood that was left in the kitchen of the Rutherford home.

Pruitt’s fingerprints also matched prints lifted from the stolen Honda, according to KREM.

Tracy Pruitt was eyed as the possible killer early in the investigation after he was suspected of using Rutherford’s credit cards, according to the CBS affiliate.

However, no one was charged in connection to Rutherford’s murder.

In 1982, police say Pruitt was arrested for an unrelated rape and robbery in Ohio.

“He was convicted for those crimes and spent 27 years in prison,” police stated in their release.

Rutherford was part owner of the family-owned Rutherford’s Triple XXX drive-in restaurants and worked as a night clerk for the Trade Winds Motor Hotel, which reopened in 2018 as a historic boutique hotel in downtown Spokane.

Investigators found no evidence that Pruitt and Rutherford knew one another, leading them to believe the murder was random, according to KREM.

Following the issuance of an arrest warrant by the Spokane County District Court on Oct. 7, detectives with the Spokane Police Department’s Major Crimes Unit traveled to Los Angeles. On Oct. 27, they arrested Pruitt on fugitive charges with assistance from the LAPD and the FBI Fugitive Task Force, Washington police stated in their release.

Pruitt awaits extradition, which police said could take several months.

Eleanor Rutherford died in 1996, per the Spokesman-Review.

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