Kansas City, Kansas man arrested for 4-decade-old murder in Texas

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CONROE, Texas — Authorities in southeast Texas say a 75-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, man has been arrested on a murder warrant in a nearly four-decade-old case.

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Lt. Scott Spencer said Thursday that Thomas Elvin Darnell was arrested May 11 in the 3300 block of No. 57th Street in KCK.

He says Darnell is being held for the 1983 death of Laura Purchase after DNA connected Darnell to the crime.

The sheriff’s office stated in a release that deputies originally discovered a body in the early morning hours of March 17, 1983 while responding to a fire in some woods. The area is north of Houston.

They found Purchase’s body, but it wasn’t until three years later that the FBI formally identified her using fingerprints. Purchase was reported missing from Houston. An autopsy determined she was sexually assaulted and strangled, and investigators say they found traces of male DNA.

Purchase’s slaying was one of about 600 confessed to and later recanted by Henry Lee Lucas, a drifter who died in a Texas prison where he was serving a life term for other slayings.

The sheriff’s office in 2007 resubmitted that DNA evidence, which ruled out Lucas in 2008. Genealogy testing done in October of 2019 pointed to Darnell as a possible suspect, and a warrant was issued for his DNA.

Earlier this year in March, cold case detectives from Texas traveled to Kansas City, Kansas to get a DNA sample from Darnell, which positively matched the DNA taken from Purchase. Following his arrest on May 11, he was extradited to Texas on Thursday.

Jail records do not list an attorney who could speak on Darnell’s behalf. He is held in the Montgomery County jail without bond

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