After five decades of agony for the family of a nine-year-old girl who was raped and killed, police have identified the culprit of the heinous crime.
Debbie Lynn Randall vanished in mid-January of 1972. Her body, which had been raped and strangled, was found 16 days later after thousands of people banded together to search for the missing girl.
She was thought to have been abducted from a nearby laundromat in Marietta and was found near an intersection of Windy Hill and Powers Ferry Road in Marietta, Georgia.
For decades, the family never learned who did this to the nine-year-old, with her parents dying before they ever got to know the truth.
In 2022, a piece of cloth that was recovered from the crime scene was sent to forensics for further analysis after police obtained more DNA testing funding. DNA Labs Internation conducted further testing and found a potential match for the killer, and contacted the family to provide additional DNA samples for comparison. The man they finally landed on was identified as William Rose, someone who was never on police radar at the time.
William Rose, however, will never face justice for his crime, as he died by suicide in 1974, two years after he killed Debbie.
He was 24 at the time of the murder and would have been around 75 if he were still alive.
Debbie’s mother died of leukaemia in 2018 and her father died only last year, however, her brother, Melvin Randall was at the news conference to hear who the person was who killed his sister.
"My family appreciates everything they’ve done - all the time and the effort that they’ve done to bring to a close." Mr Randall said. "I wish my mother was here, but I know she knows in heaven that it’s finally over."
Debbie went to the laundromat half a block away from her house with her stepfather at around 7pm, but he left before her, reports WAFB.
Around 8.30pm Debbie’s mother became concerned about her whereabouts and went out the laundromat to try and find her, but an employee said she left an hour before.
Two local youths said that a dark pickup truck backed up in a parking lot near the girl’s home and drove away quickly. All that was left in the parking lot was spilt laundry detergent.
While Rose did not live in the area, he likely often visited the the community because he had relatives there, Ron Alter, a cold case investigator with the district attorney’s office said.
"If he drove by, I’m sure he saw her. I believe that was a crime of opportunity. He saw her by herself and abducted her," Mr Alter said.
He also confirmed that Rose had prior arrests for alcohol-related incidents. Mr Alter said it’s possible Rose killed himself because he was afraid of being caught or going to jail.
It was thanks to new technological advances in DNA testing that justice and peace were given to this family after all this time
"It may take us some time, but with the new technologies that are coming out every day, we’re going to do everything we can to solve our cold cases, to make sure we bring people to justice," Cobb County District Attorney Flynn Broady said.
As for Debbie’s surviving brother, he says that he has forgiven Rose for what he did to his sister. “I learned over the years that it does you no good to hate or hold grudges,” he said.