Mom Finally Sees an Arrest in Her Teen Daughter's 1986 Rape & Murder

John William KelleyI can't imagine what life has been like for the family of Annette Thur. Their daughter's 1986 killing has remained an open case for more than a quarter of a century. And now, suddenly, finally, after all this time, a registered sex offender has been arrested charged with the rape and murder of the innocent teenager.

Cops in California say they were able to link DNA from way back in 1986 when Annette's body was found by a hiker down a roadside embankment to John William Kelley. The 49-year-old Kelley was convicted of rape in the 1990s, and his DNA was entered into the system at that point. And thanks to a federal grant, a crime lab review of cold cases has tied the two together. Ain't technology grand?


It's thanks to what we can do today with DNA and old crime scenes that a family is finally getting some peace.

There really was no good news that Annette's mom, Patty Dombrowski, was going to get. She already knew her 17-year-old daughter had been picked up by a hitchhiker, raped, then killed. But here we are nearly 26 years later, and it is looking like she might finally see some justice for her child.

It's not perfect. But it's something.

It's a big something for a mom who has been wrestling with this sorrow for a quarter of a century. Dombrowski, who was living in Indiana with Annette's stepfather at the time of her death, remembers being angry with her daughter the last time the teen called home. She'd told her husband to pick up the phone and talk to Annette that Thanksgiving Day.

Of course this mom thought her daughter was going to be with them in Indiana soon. She didn't know that some psychopath would kill her on December 6. And so all these years she's had to wait, wondering what happened.

It's something to think about the next time we curse the fast pace of technology. Things change quickly, and it can seem like it's more about forcing us to spend money on something new than it is about changing lives.

But here we are in 2012, and a murder that was unsolvable in 1986 is looking solved. A suspect has been arrested, a mother is getting closure.

It's not perfect. But it's something.

Does the fact that they can use today's technology to solve old crimes make you feel safer?


Image via San Mateo County Sheriff's Office

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