Sep­a­rated socks could help solve 28-year-old mur­der cold case

The Morning Call - - STATE/REGION - By Men­sah M. Dean

PHILADEL­PHIA — Philadel­phia law en­force­ment of­fi­cials Tues­day said they had solved a 28-year-old “cold case” mur­der with the ar­rest of Theodore Dill Don­ahue, a Ger­man­town pizza de­liv­ery­man who was long a sus­pect in the 1991 slay­ing of Denise Sharon Kulb, 27, his for­mer girl­friend.

Don­ahue, now 52, whose email han­dle is “Ted Bundy 1967,” an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to the ex­e­cuted se­rial mur­derer, was ar­rested Tues­day morn­ing and charged with mur­der, abuse of corpse, tam­per­ing with ev­i­dence, ob­struc­tion of jus­tice, and false re­ports to po­lice, Philadel­phia District At­tor­ney Larry Kras­ner said at a news con­fer­ence at the Penn­syl­va­nia State Po­lice sta­tion on Bel­mont Av­enue.

As a hand­cuffed Don­ahue was walked from the build­ing and put into a po­lice SUV, he looked straight ahead and ig­nored re­porters’ ques­tions. “He’s not guilty. He de­nies the charges, and we will dis­pute it in court,” his at­tor­ney, R. Em­mett Mad­den, said dur­ing a brief phone con­ver­sa­tion.

The ar­rest by state po­lice was made af­ter “an ex­ten­sive joint re-ex­am­i­na­tion of the case,” said Kras­ner, who said state Trooper An­drew Martin in par­tic­u­lar was key in crack­ing the case. He noted that Martin gained the free as­sis­tance of Tem­ple Univer­sity’s pho­tog­ra­phy depart­ment to en­hance crime-scene pho­to­graphs.

The vic­tim’s body was found on Nov. 12, 1991, in a wooded por­tion of an un­de­vel­oped cul-de-sac off Har­vey Road in Chadds Ford Town­ship, Delaware County. Kulb was a mother, daugh­ter, sis­ter, and friend who “de­served far bet­ter than to be killed and left in a lo­ca­tion un­known to those who mourned her,” Kras­ner said.

It is be­lieved Kulb’s body was moved there af­ter she was mur­dered, au­thor­i­ties said. Her last known ad­dresses were on Am­ber Street and Salaignac Street in Philadel­phia.

An­thony Voci, su­per­vi­sor of the district at­tor­ney’s Homi­cide Unit, said Don­ahue’s ar­rest nearly three decades af­ter he al­legedly killed Kulb “demon­strates our com­mit­ment to the ideal that there is no case, no amount of time, that we con­sider a lost cause.”

The homi­cide was orig­i­nally in­ves­ti­gated by po­lice in Delaware County. The case was re-opened by the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion As­sess­ment Unit of the state po­lice in 2015, and the Philadel­phia District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice joined the in­ves­ti­ga­tion in 2018 with the con­sent of the Delaware County District At­tor­ney’s Of­fice, which ceded ju­ris­dic­tion, of­fi­cials said.

In­stead of re­ly­ing on DNA or phys­i­cal ev­i­dence, the case was built on new in­ves­tiga­tive tools, in­clud­ing photo-en­hanc­ing tech­nol­ogy that con­nected a pair of sep­a­rated socks, which proved to be a key piece of ev­i­dence, to Don­ahue, of­fi­cials said.

Don­ahue’s chang­ing state­ments over the years also cast doubt on his claims of in­no­cence, Voci said.

On Oct. 1, 1991, Kulb moved into Don­ahue’s apart­ment on the 200 block of Salaignac in the Wis­sahickon sec­tion of Philadel­phia. Two weeks later, she moved out. Ac­cord­ing to Don­ahue’s orig­i­nal state­ment that he gave state po­lice, he last saw Kulb on Oct. 18, 1991, when they bought and used crack. They were robbed at knife­point, he said, and she ran to get help.

But in 2015, when Don­ahue was re-in­ter­viewed by state po­lice, he gave a dif­fer­ent ac­count, stat­ing that the last time he saw Kulb was out­side of a bar on Oct. 18.

She was seen alive by fam­ily mem­bers at a funeral on Oct. 19, 1991, and when her sis­ter was later in­ter­viewed, she stated that Denise got into a fight with Don­ahue out­side of the bar where the sis­ter was em­ployed.

Phone records show that Don­ahue and Kulb talked be­fore they met on Oct. 19, the last day she was seen alive. On the af­ter­noon of Nov. 12, 1991, Kulb’s body was found clothed only in a sweater, and piled on top were two pairs of pants, a T-shirt, a jacket, and one pale yel­low sock.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors from the Delaware County Coro­ner’s Of­fice ruled the death a homi­cide. On Nov. 15, 1991, state troop­ers searched Don­ahue’s apart­ment and found one yel­low sock that matched the sock found on the body, and a job ap­pli­ca­tion with Kulb’s name on it. The pho­tos of the socks were later en­hanced to make the con­nec­tion be­tween the apart­ment and the crime scene.

That day, Don­ahue was in­ter­viewed, and de­nied any in­volve­ment or knowl­edge of Kulb’s death, while ad­mit­ting that his nick­name was “Ted Bundy.” Over the next two days, Don­ahue called the state po­lice to ask about the au­topsy results and told troop­ers, in what they con­sid­ered a ner­vous man­ner, that he would of­fer his help with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, of­fi­cials said.

Over the next sev­eral years, Don­ahue and other po­ten­tial wit­nesses were in­ter­viewed or re-in­ter­viewed, and his story un­rav­eled, Voci said. The in­ter­views re-cre­ated Don­ahue’s telling oth­ers of how his old girl­friend was found face­down in the woods stran­gled, re­veal­ing de­tails that no one but an eye­wit­ness or the killer should have known, of­fi­cials said.

Voci said Don­ahue did not con­fess to the slay­ing. He de­clined to say why the ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tors did not give more weight to the match­ing yel­low socks. “I can’t speak for what the in­ves­ti­ga­tors un­der­stood or be­lieved at that point and time,” he said.

Voci said he was con­fi­dent the pas­sage of time will not ham­per his of­fice’s chances of win­ning a con­vic­tion. “Some­times cases get bet­ter with time, just like wine does,” he said. “For in­stance, in 1991 we didn’t have mul­ti­ple ver­sions of his last in­ter­ac­tions with the vic­tim. Now we do. So that’s one ex­am­ple of how cases can get bet­ter.”

Dis­trib­uted by Tri­bune Con­tent Agency, LLC.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.