Police in Columbus, Ohio said Friday they cracked the cold case, kidnapping, sexually assaulting, and killing the 8-year-old, all thanks to genealogical testing and a podcast that traces the history of the case.
According to investigators, Kelly Ann was kidnapped in the Columbus University District on September 20, 1982, when she went home from Indianola Elementary School. Two days later, her body was discovered in a grain field in nearby Madison County, Greg Bodker, Columbus’ deputy chief of police, said during a press conference on Friday.
Case details from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office say Prosser was beaten, sexually assaulted, and strangled.
What stayed behind ̵
“This is a case that the entire CPD has sought to resolve over the years and a case that has affected all employees on a personal level,” said Bodker. “Imagine you collect something in 1982 that you didn’t know would one day exist – DNA.”
The suspect was released months before death
After one of the “most intense investigations” by the police, evidence obtained at the crime scene proved to be the key to resolving the case decades later, Bodker said.
Bodker identified Prosser’s murderer as “Harold Warren Jarrell”, a man who has since died and was not mentioned in the original Prosser file.
In 1977, Jarrell was accused and convicted of kidnapping another 8-year-old girl from Tamarack Circle on the north side of Columbus. He was released in January 1982, eight months before Prosser’s kidnapping, said Sgt. Terry McConnell.
According to Bodker, he is currently not a suspect in other Columbus crimes.
In a statement McConnell had read out at Friday’s press conference, Prosser’s family thanked law enforcement agencies for their commitment to their case over nearly four decades.
“When Kelly Ann went to school on the morning of September 20, 1982, we hadn’t expected our time with her to end abruptly or that our future would change in any way possible.”
“In a moment we had this dazzling, mischievous 8 year old little girl, and all of a sudden we had only memories, photos that would never age, a calendar that marked a terrible new holiday, a grave and parts of Kelly’s life a box “was the statement.
Around 2014 or 2015, the DNA collected was entered into CODIS, a national database of DNA samples used by law enforcement agencies. According to McConnell, however, no matches were found from the database.
In March, the police agency partnered with Advance DNA, a forensic genealogy research company that used the DNA sample to build a family tree for the potential suspect and provide additional clues to the detectives, McConnell said.
Jarrell worked for a local Columbus radio station in the 1970s and 1980s while doing other odd jobs there throughout his time. Even though he had already died in Las Vegas, police could confirm the connection between Jarrell and Prosser after receiving DNA samples from Jarrell’s living relatives, McConnell said.
After following Advance DNA’s new evidence, the detectives also found that an anonymous tip from 2014 cited a “similar name” to Jarrell, though it wasn’t verified due to limited information at the time, McConnell said.
AdvanceDNA said in a statement to CNN that its team “used DNA matches with the DNA profile provided by the Columbus Division of Police” and that the DNA matches came from users of two genetic testing companies who opted for law enforcement .
“In Kelly’s case, there was no close match, instead leads were developed by connecting a number of third cousins,” the company said.
CNN’s Alec Snyder contributed to this report.