AUSTIN (KXAN) – A San Antonio man is facing a charge of murder in a 42-year-old cold case out of Comal County, Texas.
Larry Allen West, 68, was arrested by Texas Rangers on April 13 and charged in the 1981 murder of Carol Joyce Deleon, who was 18 when she was killed just days after graduating high school, the Texas Department of Public Safety announced.
West was linked to the murder through new evidence, obtained through advanced DNA testing made possible by DPS’ Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) program.
Deleon’s body was found in June 1981, along IH-35 in southern Comal County, but she wasn’t identified until 27 years later. Investigators tried to determine her identity using fingerprints and a composite sketch that was released to local media at the time, but she was ultimately buried as a Jane Doe.
An autopsy determined she died from multiple gunshot wounds to the head, according to DPS.
The Texas Ranger’s Unsolved Crimes Investigation Program reviewed the case file in May 2008, a year after the victim’s sister filed a second missing person’s report for Deleon.
According to DPS, the victim’s family had attempted to file a missing person report back in 1981, when Deleon went missing only days after her high school graduation. But because Deleon was 18 and no foul play was suspected, authorities didn’t take the report at the time.
Deleon had also told the family she would be moving away once she turned 18, and they had assumed she followed through, DPS said. However, after years of not hearing from her, Deleon’s youngest sister decided to file another report in 2007.
Upon revisiting the case in 2008, investigators only found one missing person that matched a similar description of the victim from the 1981 time frame.
Texas Rangers met with Deleon’s family and provided a photo of the Jane Doe from the 1981 cold case. Her family recognized her and further family DNA testing confirmed her identity, 27 years after being labeled a Jane Doe.
The Texas Rangers continued pursuing the case with forensic DNA advancements. In 2010, an unknown DNA profile was developed and entered into the Combined DNA Index System. At that time, no matches were found, and the case once again stalled due to the lack of leads caused by the long time frame.
In 2020, evidence in the case was then subjected to Advanced DNA testing under DPS’ SAKI program, which is funded by the Department of Justice/Bureau of Justice Assistance.
The agencies provide investigative funding for investigative departments across the United States, to further investigate unsolved sexual assaults and sexually related homicides with the hope of bringing justice to the victims and their families, according to the DPS release.
The evidence obtained with the help of the SAKI program revealed a new suspect, Larry Allen West, whose DNA was confirmed through normal forensic testing.
West was arrested and booked into the Bexar County Jail on a $125,000 bond.
An indictment and trial are now pending.