Johnson County cold case solved 36 years later, suspect in custody

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OLATHE, Kan. — Johnson County detectives say they’ve solved a cold case murder that’s 36 years old. Gary Watson was stabbed to death in Roeland Park back in 1985.

It’s still unclear what exactly cracked the case; however, investigators say it had to do with new testing and a fresh set of eyes.

More than three decades later, Watson’s family can rest. His sister, Audrey Walker, stood with her siblings at a press conference Tuesday, announcing the break in the case. Walker turned to Sheriff Calvin Hayden, Prosecuting Attorney Steve Howe and the entire investigative team and said, “thank you.”

“Geter Rhymes is now charged with first-degree murder. It’s a class A felony with a potential life sentence. His bond is at $1 million,” Howe said.

Geter Rhymes is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Gary Watson.

On March 13, 1985, Watson was coming home in the afternoon to his apartment in Roeland Park. Investigators say Rhymes allegedly stabbed Walker to death in his doorway. Watson was a father of three and husband.

“It’s hard to imagine 36 years not knowing what happened to a loved one in your family. We’re very happy today to be able to bring some closure, some sense of a beginning for healing for this family,” Capt. Josh Theiss said.

Theiss said new investigators along with forensic testing made it possible to charge Rhymes in the case. Walker recalled the moment the detective told her Rhymes was charged.

“She said, ‘I’ve got good news,’ and she came to my apartment in St. Louis. My sister was there, and my brother was on speaker, and the tears just start flowing, and it was an overwhelming sense of, ‘Thank you, God,'” Walker said.

Walker knows there are other families waiting for justice, and she hopes their time comes soon.

“Never give up. I never, ever gave up hope that this could be solved. I understood that between 1985 to 2021 there have been so many new processes in place for the criminal justice system that you can’t just walk away from what you did — even if it took 36 years,” Walker said.

There is much more to learn about how investigators solved this case. We will know more once a judge releases the affidavit in the case. FOX4 made a formal request to the Johnson County Court for the document Tuesday.

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