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Persistence solves 1975 murder mystery
Updated: Wednesday, 11 Nov 2009, 4:19 PM MST
Published : Tuesday, 10 Nov 2009, 11:29 PM MST
ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - It's a type of cold case the Office of the Medical Investigator had never seen before, and it's a case that took 34 years to solve.
In Gallup in 1975 a man shot a 16-year-old girl in a convenience store and left her for dead.
Police had good leads. Witnesses said the suspect left in a green van, and someone sketched the man's face on the gas station paper towel.
Gallup police scoured the area, but the killer was still able to slip away.
The focus then turned to the young woman he murdered. She had no identification, no fingerprints on file, and police didn't know who she was.
"(We) sent out flyers to police departments across the country" Gallup Police Department Deputy Chief John Allen said. "'Is anybody missing anybody matching this description?'"
The teenager nicknamed "Jane Doe" was buried in an unmarked grave in Gallup. The case file over the years grew, but detectives did not forget about it and occasionally cracked open the file.
But recently Terry Coker, a former Gallup officer who now works for the OMI, took another look at the case.
Terry Coker found that DNA had been collected in 1975. So Coker ran it through the CODIS, the Combined DNA Index System
, a national database managed by the FBI that only became fully operational in 1998.
"DNA for this case was the saving grace," Coker said. He got an initial DNA hit and also found a match on the Doe Network
, a volunteer group that posts reports of missing persons and helps identify victims.
Investigators exhumed the body to collect additional DNA and finally learned their Jane Doe was Pamela Mulligan's sister, Candace Lynn Starr, 16.
"My cell phone rang," Mulligan told KRQE News 13 during an interview in her Idaho home. "When I looked at it, it was the 505 area code.
"I shook my head took a deep breath, and it was Terry Coker."
Starr's ex-boyfriend, Michael Singh, 30, snatched Starr from her Los Angeles home on Sept. 21, 1975, as two younger sisters watched helplessly.
"He grabbed her around the neck and forcibly drug her out of the house at gunpoint, with the gun at her head," Mulligan said.
Over the past four decades Mulligan said she knew her sister was dead. She just didn't know where and she didn't know if she would ever find out.
"It bothered me that she was in the desert for 34 years by herself," Mulligan said.
Singh, a military veteran, was a violent man. In 1977 he was convicted of shooting and killing his new wife and was sent to prison.
With good time he was on work release and escaped.
His killing spree continued when Singh beat his second wife to death with a shovel in 1982. Singh then was committed to the Fulton State Mental Hospital in Missouri.
But he will never face charges for Starr's murder. In 2005 another Fulton State patient killed Singh.
"Justice was served," Mulligan said.
Starr finally got the dignity she deserved when her body was returned home to California.
Her family is grateful to the Los Angeles Police Department and everyone who has helped with the investigation in New Mexico.
Donations are being taken at Wells Fargo Banks in Sandpoint, Idaho. All the money will go to the New Mexico Crime Victims Reparation Commission that helps victims of New Mexico crimes.
Donations can be mailed to:
Wells Fargo Sandpoint
The Candace Lynn Starr Memorial Fund
P.O. Box 1528
Sandpoint ID 83864