Kentucky authorities relied on DNA testing to solve the 1976 murder of 16-year-old Carol Sue Klaber, who was found “brutally” murdered in a roadside ditch in Walton, Kentucky, the Boone County Sheriff’s Office announced on Wednesday. 

Klaber, whose remains were discovered on June 5, 1976, a day after she was last seen, died as a result of blunt force trauma, strangulation and sexual assault, Kentucky State Police investigators determined. KSP detective Jerry Keith worked on the case for a decade before it went cold, the sheriff’s office said. 

In 2017, the Boone County Sheriff’s Office’s newly opened Cold Case Unit took over Klaber’s murder investigation. Detectives had access to DNA and fingerprints and for years targeted two credible suspects who would later be ruled out, according to the sheriff’s office.

Then, in September 2022, the sheriff’s office teamed up with Othram Inc., a Texas-based laboratory that specializes in forensic genealogy to crack unsolved murders, to see if forensic DNA testing could identify the suspect or a close male relative, the sheriff’s office said. 

After using forensic-grade genome sequencing to build a DNA profile, Othram provided the sheriff’s office with investigative leads that detectives used to positively identify a suspect, Thomas W. Dunaway of Park Hills, Kentucky, as the likely killer, the sheriff’s office said. 

Dunaway, who was 19-years-old when the murder took place, had an “extensive and violent” criminal history over the years and died in 1990 at the age of 33, according to the sheriff’s office. 

The Klamer family has been notified of the DNA match and have found “closure” in the case, Sheriff Michael A. Helmig said.