Seattle cold case detectives have solved a case that has haunted the department for more than half a century after DNA evidence and familial genealogy led them to a killer more than 30 years in his own grave.
Susan Galvin, 20, was a records clerk for the city’s police department on the night of July 9, 1967, when she failed to show up for her overnight shift. According to KIRO in Seattle, her body was found in a parking garage elevator at the Seattle Center, the 74-acre mixed-use center famed for its iconic Space Needle.
Galvin had been raped and strangled, The Associated Press reported.
Seattle police officials on Tuesday announced a resolution in the case, which thus far is the oldest case solved through public genealogy databases, the AP said. More than 60 cases have been solved through the method since it was popularized by the arrest last year of Joseph James DeAngelo, the alleged Golden State Killer.
Two of those solved cases were announced earlier this week. In one, Christopher VanBuskirk, 46, of Goodyear, Arizona, was arrested April 29 and charged in a string of four rapes committed in San Diego between August and November of 1995. Another two rapes committed in Riverside County in March 2002 and November 2004 were found to be committed by the same man.
According to San Diego police officials, VanBuskirk, who allegedly raped the women at knifepoint, was identified through genealogy databases and the DNA samples of direct family members. VanBuskirk was extradited to San Diego County on Monday, jail records show.
In the second case, Terre Haute, Indiana, police investigators linked Jeffrey Lynn Hand, who was killed by an off-duty deputy during an attempted kidnapping in 1978, to the 1972 strangulation of Indiana State University student Pamela Milam. The 19-year-old vanished the night of Sept. 15 and was found bound and gagged in her car trunk on the university’s campus the following day by her family.
Terre Haute Police Chief Shawn Keen said during a news conference Monday that Hand, who would have been in his early 20s at the time of Milam’s killing, had a violent history that, aside from the attempted abduction during which he was slain, included murder and stalking. Hand was identified as a suspect through reverse paternity, in which his children’s DNA was used to link him to genetic material left at the crime scene, Keen said.
‘Punchy’ the clown
Frank Wypych was a 26-year-old security guard in 1967, when police officials allege he raped and killed Galvin. KIRO reported that Wypych may have worked at the Seattle Center when the homicide took place.
After Galvin’s slaying, detectives interviewed dozens of people and had one suspect in mind -- a clown called “Punchy” who Galvin was reportedly seen with in the hours before she was killed. According to KIRO, Galvin spent a lot of her free time at the Seattle Center and was last seen with the clown in the area where the Seattle Center Armory now stands.
The man who worked as Punchy was located in Utah in 2016, when Seattle police Detective Rolf Norton reopened the case, and eliminated as a suspect through DNA, the news station said.
Wypych, a divorced former soldier who died of diabetes complications in 1987, was identified as a suspect in Galvin’s death after the case was reopened. His family, including his children, cooperated with the investigation, the AP reported.
Norton used the DeAngelo case as an inspiration and submitted DNA found on Galvin’s clothing -- which was still stored away as evidence -- to Virginia-based Parobon Nanolabs Inc. last summer. CeCe Moore, a Parobon genealogist, told the AP she used the genetic profile from the evidence and traced it to two distant cousins who branched from a single couple born in the 1820s and 1830s.
She then traced that couple’s descendants through the subsequent generations and found Wypych, who was born in Seattle and was just a few years older than Galvin at the time she was slain.
Wypych’s body was exhumed earlier this year and a DNA sample taken from his remains. The sample matched what was found on Galvin’s clothes, the AP reported.
“It’s amazing the DNA was still viable,” Moore told the AP. “The original investigators who collected the crime scene evidence did such a great job, long before they could even have imagined what could be done with DNA.”
Norton expressed a similar sentiment about the original detectives, all of whom are now deceased.
“They processed that case like it was 2015,” he told the AP.
‘No clear answer as to the why’
One of Galvin’s brothers, Chris Galvin, attended the announcement Tuesday. Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best presented him with the American flag that was flying over the Seattle Justice Center the day Norton solved his sister’s murder.
“We will never forget,” Best wrote in a tweet about the moment.
Another brother, Lorimer “Larry” Galvin, thanked Norton in a statement for finally giving the family some answers. One question remains, he said.
“Fifty-two years later, we learn the who, but still have no clear understanding as to the why,” Galvin wrote from his Florida home, according to the AP. “There will always be that lingering question.”
Wypych was married and the father of a young child when he allegedly killed Susan Galvin, the news agency said. Another child was born two years later.
In the years following Galvin’s slaying, Wypych found himself in trouble with the law, KIRO reported. He was arrested for larceny in 1971 and, in 1975, he was accused of impersonating a police officer and making traffic stops -- while armed with a gun, the news station said.
He and his wife divorced in 1971, the year of his larceny conviction. He served nine months in jail.
Though he was charged in the impersonation case in 1975, he was never convicted in that incident, the AP reported.
Norton told the AP Wypych’s children were stunned to learn of his connection to a homicide.
The detective told KIRO the fact that Susan Galvin worked for the police department made the case a personal one for many of her colleagues.
“I think everyone here who worked on this case thought a lot about Susan Galvin,” Norton told the news station. “Everyone was hopeful that someday we’d come to this end.”
Norton said he always hoped he could solve the case for Galvin’s family, which includes seven siblings.
“I guess when I look at her picture, I think of them,” Norton said. “I think of her mother and father and just this horrible loss that snatched her away in a shockingly evil act.”
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