DNA evidence points to 8-year-old killer after 38 years

Police in Columbus, Ohio said Friday they unraveled the unsolved case about who kidnapped, sexually assaulted, and killed the 8-year-old boy, all thanks to genealogical evidence and a podcast that traces the history of the case.

Investigators say that on September 20, 1982, Kelly Ann was kidnapped in the Columbus University District while walking home from Indianola Elementary School. Two days later, her body was discovered in a cornfield in nearby Madison County, Columbus Police Deputy Director Greg Bodker said during a press conference on Friday.

Details of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office case say Prosser had been beaten, sexually assaulted, and strangled.

What was left behind was what, after years, helped investigators solve the case.

“This is a case that over the years every CPD wanted to solve, and a case that affected all staff on a personal level,” said Bodker. “Imagine in 1982 collecting something you didn’t know would one day exist: DNA.”

The suspect was released months before killing

After one of the police department’s “most intensive investigations,” preserved evidence from the crime scene turned out to be the key to solving the case decades later, Bodker said.

Bodker identified Prosser’s killer as “Harold Warren Jarrell”, a now deceased man who was not mentioned in Prosser’s original file.

In 1977 Jarrell was charged and convicted of kidnapping a different 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, the sergeant said. Terry McConnell.

He is not currently suspected of any other crime in Columbus, according to Bodker.

In a statement read aloud by McConnell during Friday’s press conference, the Prosser family thanked police for their dedication to their case for nearly four decades.

“When Kelly Ann left for school on the morning of September 20, 1982, we did not expect that our time with her would end abruptly or that our future would change in every way imaginable.”

“At one point we had this dazzling and mischievous 8-year-old girl, so all of a sudden we were left with memories, photographs that would never grow old, a calendar that marked a terrible new vacation, a grave and pieces of life from Kelly stored in a box, “the statement said.

Tracking relatives

Around 2014 or 2015, the collected DNA was entered into CODIS, a national database of DNA samples used by police, but no database matches were found, McConnell said.

In March, the police department partnered with Advance DNA, a forensic genealogy investigation company, which used the DNA sample to put together a family tree for the potential suspect and provide additional leads for detectives, McConnell said.

Jarrell worked for a local radio station in Columbus for much of the 1970s and 1980s, while doing other odd jobs during his time there. Although he had already died in Las Vegas, police were able to confirm the link between Jarrell and Prosser after obtaining DNA samples from Jarrell’s living relatives, McConnell said.

After following the new leads from Advance DNA, detectives also realized that an anonymous 2014 ad cited a “name similar” to Jarrell’s, though it was not verified at the time due to limited information, McConnell said.

AdvanceDNA said in a statement to CNN that his team “took advantage of the DNA matches with the DNA profile provided by the Columbus Police Division” and that the DNA matches came from users of two genetic testing companies who had opted for the application of the law.

“In Kelly’s case there were no close matches, instead leads were developed by connecting a series of third cousins,” the company said.

CNN’s Alec Snyder contributed to this report.