Technology advances lead to potential break in decades-old cold case

In nearly 39 years, this is the closest Gerri Houde has come to getting justice for her sister, Theresa Corley, who was murdered in 1978.

In May, Boston 25 News was there as state police exhumed Corley's body from her grave in Milford, collecting nine and a half fingernails in a search for DNA.

Friday morning, seven months later, a Norfolk County assistant DA told Theresa's family what they have waited decades to hear; that technicians have finally retrieved a DNA sample from Theresa, but it came not from her grave, but from her clothes.

PREVIOUS: Unsolved: Can DNA unlock the mystery of who killed Theresa Corley?

"They came back with a complete DNA profile from a sample gotten off of her jeans," said Houde.

Theresa Corley was murdered in December 1978 after a night out with friends in Franklin.

State police say a group of men gave Theresa a ride to a Franklin apartment, where she was sexually assaulted. Theresa was last seen hitchhiking, a mile away from her home in Bellingham early the next morning.

PREVIOUS: Bellingham woman's body exhumed after almost 40 years

Two days later, Theresa's naked body was found on the side of Route 495.

"I don't know if I should be really jubilant about this, but just the fact that after 39 years they got a complete DNA profile off of an old sample, it gives hope not only to Theresa's case, but to other cases," said Houde.

Forensic science may ultimately solve this case, but Theresa's family is hoping that after nearly 40 years, one of her friends now will finally speak up.

"This is the year for Theresa and I hope somebody will do the right thing," said Houde.

PREVIOUS: New England's Unsolved: Teen found murdered on side of road

Now that this DNA sample has been collected, it will be sent to a national DNA crime data base and if there's a match, this case could be solved.

The sample was very small, and it was found in semen discovered on Theresa's jeans. Investigators waited for DNA technology to improve and that paid off. They now have a full DNA profile they can use to match up against a potential suspect.

MORE: New England's Unsolved Podcast: Theresa Corley

Comments on this article