Tuesday, May 30, 2023
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Cold case arrest in Shelley Connolly murder

Alaska State Troopers said 62-year-old former Alaskan Donald F. McQuade was arrested in Oregon in connection with the death of Shelley Connolly in 1978.

Back in 1978, Connolly was found sexually assaulted and beaten, dead along the railroad tracks. She had been dragged behind a vehicle, and then dumped along the tracks near Beluga Point, Mile 109 of the Seward Highway. Her death was determined to be due to a blunt blow to her abdomen, which caused a lacerated liver.

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The teenager had been seen in the parking lot of Chikoot Charlie’s in Spenard earlier that day, and later at Leroy’s Diner. According to news reports from that time, her broken fingernails and debris showed she had fought to try to climb out of the ditch after being raped and dragged.

Oregon police arrested McQuade without incident on Friday. Based on DNA technology not available at the time of Connolly’s death, McQuade has been charged with Connolly’s murder.

Investigators made the connection earlier this year: DNA evidence pointed to a set of brothers, and they narrowed their search down to McQuade after finding he had been in Alaska during the time of the murder.

At the request of the Cold Case Unit, the Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory developed a DNA profile of an unknown male, based on biological evidence collected during the autopsy. No match was generated from the DNA, which was loaded into the CODIS system in 2003. But this year, investigators submitted the material to Parabon Nanolabs, and using genetic technology, the lab was able to link the DNA to McQuade, who was 21 at the time of the girl’s death and living in Anchorage.

“Investigators have spent years analyzing this case looking for a viable lead. I have an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction that all that work has paid off,” said Investigator Randy McPherron of the Alaska State Trooper’s Cold Case Unite. “More than anything, I am relieved to be able to provide Shelley’s friends and family a sense of justice and the knowledge that Shelley was more than a name on an unsolved homicide sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere. Every single victim matters to us.”

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Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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