David Anderson, the 63-year-old man convicted of killing then 34-year-old Sylvia Quayle in 1981, was sentenced to life in prison by an Arapahoe County judge Aug. 4.
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The case had been without a suspect for decades until early 2021, when breakthrough DNA testing technology allowed investigators to pinpoint suspects.
“As decades passed, many people thought this case would remain unsolved forever,” said John Kellner, district attorney for the 18th Judicial District. “Advancements in science combined with the tenacity of investigators and prosecutors led to justice today.”
According to a district court affidavit, Quayle's body was found by her father, William Quayle, in her home at 3800 S. Ogden St in Cherry Hills Village.
Police responded to his call of a "woman down" just before 8 a.m. Aug. 4, 1981, and found Quayle dead at the scene. Her father told officers he found her body "lying on the living room floor, nude with her arms above her head" and a white towel covering her face, the affidavit said.
According to the affidavit, police noted Quayle's hands were covered in blood and she had red marks on her neck, according to the affidavit. An investigation revealed she had been shot with a .22 caliber bullet in the top of her head and stabbed three times in her upper back, with evidence of strangulation.
Ottis Toole, an infamous serial killer who had falsely confessed to hundreds of murders across the U.S., was charged with Quayle's murder after he confessed to the crime two years after it occurred, but never faced trial for it.
DNA evidence in 1993 disproved Toole's confession, causing the case to go cold for more than 25 years.
In 2000, a DNA sample that had been collected at the 1981 crime scene was submitted to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation but was left unidentified.
In 2020, Cherry Hills Village police began working with former Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrisey, whose company United Data Connect provided police with genetic genealogy testing, a relatively new technology.
The company began developing leads for the unidentified DNA sample, which encompassed a pool of more than 3,300 people, Morrisey said.
Through extensive research and investigation, Morrisey said his team was able to home in on one suspect and, on Jan. 17, 2021, a company investigator traveled to Cozad, Nebraska to secretly collect DNA from Anderson.
The investigator recovered items from the dumpster for the apartment complex where Anderson lived. About 15 items were tested, with DNA from a Vanilla Coke can matching the sample from the crime scene.
A warrant for Anderson's arrest was soon issued and he was arrested in Nebraska on Feb. 10, 2021.
An Arapahoe County jury failed to reach a verdict during Anderson's first trial in early March. He was convicted of the murder during a second trial June 30.
“We’re very grateful for the numerous investigators, analysts and forensic scientists who, through the decades, refused to let the passage of time deter them in their quest for justice,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Gallo following the trial. “We certainly hope that this small measure of justice brings some degree of peace to Sylvia Quayle’s family, who has waited more than 40 years for this result.”
Jo Hammit, Sylvia's sister, said in a statement that the murder "turned my family’s world upside down.”
“For the past 41 years, Sylvia missed out on family celebrations and numerous social occasions," Hammit said. "Mr. Anderson has lived for the last four decades without giving his crime or my sister a second thought, while my family has suffered irreparable mental and emotional anguish during this time of uncertainty. I have found it necessary to forgive Mr. Anderson, but he needs to bear the consequences of his actions.”
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