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Advancements in genealogy testing, podcast help bring closure to ‘82 cold case

Advancements in genealogy testing, podcast help bring closure to ‘82 cold case

Photo by Zak Kolesar

Recent advancements in genealogy testing may be the much-needed push to close the thousands of cold cases that exist in Ohio. The recent closure to a 1982 Columbus homicide provides hope.

On Friday, the Columbus Division of Police announced the resolution of “one of CPD’s most intense investigations” at the Kimberley K. Jacobs Neighborhood Policing Center. 

Those in attendance at the conference included Sgt. Terry McConnell; Det. Dana Croom; Deputy Chief Tim Becker; director of the CPD Forensic Crime Lab Angela Farrington; Hallie Dreyer of the BCI Forensic Crime Lab; Ofc. Greg Colarich; director at AdvanceDNA Amanda Reno; Sheriff Dallas Baldwin; Deputy Chief Greg Bodker.

Genetic genealogy testing and further police research played a crucial role in bringing some closure to the sexual assault and murder of 8-year-old Kelly Ann Prosser. Prosser was abducted while walking home from Indianola Elementary School on Sept. 20, 1982. The case was also recently brought to the public’s attention in part due to The 5th Floor–a podcast started by CPC dedicated to unearthing and closing cold cases. 

After someone came across her raincoat, her body was traced to and discovered in a Madison County cornfield along A.W. Wilson Rd. on Sept. 22. 


Over the next 38 years–with the unending support of Prosser’s family, thousands of hours of detective and police work, and a recent partnership with Advanced DNA–there is finally some closure to the ‘82 cold case.

Bodker mentioned that research into DNA evidence drastically improved around 2014 and ‘15. In March of this year, the CPD partnered with AdvancedDNA. It used to take months for DNA tests to come back; now law enforcement can now get results in a couple of weeks. The law enforcement services they utilized through AdvancedDNA were GenMatch and Family Tree DNA.

“Imagine in 1982 collecting something that you know one day wouldn’t exist,” Bodker said.

As of Friday, it can “positively and conclusively” be said that the killer was Harold Warren Jarrell. Jarrell is deceased and DNA from a third cousin was obtained to solve Prosser’s murder. Previously, 23 persons of interest were investigated and cleared in the case.

In 1977, Jarrell was charged with abducting an 8-year-old from Tamarack Circle on the northside of Columbus. He was released in January 1982.

Prosser’s family wasn’t in attendance because they “thought it was too soon,” but the family did provide a statement at the press conference that was read by McConnell. The statement included praise to the Columbus Division of Police homicide detectives and the advanced DNA investigative techniques. The statement also provided glimpses into the life of a promising, sweet, young girl.

Photo by Zak Kolesar

“One moment we had this dazzling, mischievous 8-year-old little girl. Then suddenly all we had left were memories, photographs that will never age, a calendar marking a dreadful new ‘holiday,’ a grave, and pieces of Kelly’s life stored in a box.”

A statement from Prosser’s family read on Friday by McConnell

Prosser’s mom had stayed close to the investigation all these years, even sending notes to the police department with pictures of Kelly.

The future does look bright for genealogical testing and its importance in solving cold cases. Right now, there is a case that the CPD is investigating using this knowledge. The police are also in the middle of a project to identify as many other cases as possible for this type of testing.

“We are pursuing those cases with the same vigor we pursued this case,” Booker said. “We are hunting you, and when we get the tools to hunt you, we’ll bring you to justice.”


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