Social Media, Newly Discovered DNA Breathes New Life Info 32-Year-Old Cold Case


UPDATED: Monday October 29, 2012 11:04 PM

A sister is searching for answers after her brother went missing when she was 9 years old – 32 years ago.

Kathleen Comeans Park still remembers the last time she saw her 14-year-old brother Bill.

“I was a couple of doors down at a friend’s birthday party,” Comeans Park said. “Bill came over to get me. I told him, ‘Just a little while longer,’ like kids do. So he left, and that was the last time I saw him.”

The birthday party was just two doors down from the Comeans’ home, which still sits on Maple Avenue in west Columbus.

What happened that night – Jan. 7, 1980 – remains a mystery.

“He had taken coffee to my dad in the garage just behind the house, my mom was in the living room, and I’m not sure at what point they realized something was wrong,” Comeans Park said.

The search for Bill ended when his body later was found later that evening by his father near a set of railroad tracks and a clump of trees down the street, not far from the Comeans home.

“He had a scarf tied around his neck,” Comeans Park said.

The scarf was tied so tightly that Comeans Park said another brother, Mike, had to use a pocket knife to cut it off.

Detectives in 1980 at first thought Bill’s death was accidental. Investigators said they found no  sign of a struggle, and Bill was not robbed.But that changed once the coroner took a closer look and an autopsy revealed that Bill died of cardiac arrest due to compression of the neck.

Today, Det. Chuck Clark with the Franklin County Sheriff's office is working the cold case.

Clark said that the coroner also noted petechial hemorrhaging, proving Bill was most likely strangled.

A knife also was found at the scene where Bill was found murdered.  Det. Clark recently sent the knife to the state crime lab in London for DNA testing, along with a beer bottle also found near Bill's body.The scarf that was cut away from Bill's neck was also sent for testing.  Det. Clark says forensic scientists told him they discovered some DNA on the scarf and could test it.  However, Det. Clark says the state crime lab also told him that more advanced DNA testing would be available at the start of the new year, which could better pinpoint a match.

“There will be some new testing procedures that will come out January of 2013,” Clark said. “And I told them, after confirming with the family, that it would be best to wait until then, instead of now, and possibility using up all the evidence.”

The Attorney General’s office will confirm that they are exploring some new options for DNA testing in the new year. However, Clark said that there was another investigative tool that could help crack the case besides advanced DNA testing.

Comeans Park created a YouTube tribute to her brother and a Facebook page, where those who went to Westland High School in the 1980s still communicate about Bill’s murder.

“There’s been some new stuff there,” Clark said. “And, in social media, they put their name on it, but also, I was so-and-so back in High School, which is nice to have the year book.”

Comeans Park said that she is picking up where her mother left off.

“My mom kept journals every day for over a year and a half,” Comeans Park said. “She had 14 notebooks filled with information.”

The information in the journals includes possible leads in two previous attacks. Detectives said that Bill was bullied as a freshman and jumped twice, nearly strangled to death in both of the incidents.

Clark said that he believes the incidents could be related to Bill’s murder.

Until the Comeans family finds out the truth, Comeans Park said that there is not a day that goes by when she does not think of her older brother.

“We may never know who it was,” Comeans Park said. “I’ve lived my life not knowing, and to think maybe one day I’ll know, I don’t know how I’ll handle that.”

Bill’s parents have both passed away, but his sister, along with two older brothers, remain active with sending along social media tips to cold case detectives.

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