Cold case murder of Deborah Tomlinson solved after 45 years

Local News

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — The cold case of a local student, Deborah Tomlinson’s, murder is solved after 45 years. Her life was tragically cut short on December 27th 1975. Grand Junction detectives have revisited her cases a number of times, but it wasn’t until they partnered with Parabon’s DNA Analysis Service that investigators were able to finally close the case.

Detective Sean Crocker from GJPD describes a cold case as more than a box on a shelf with a case number; it is a person. In 1975, Deborah Tomlinson was a 19-year-old college student. Her father, Jim Tomlinson, characterizes her as an outgoing kid. He says she loved horses, and she was a good student in school. Mr. Tomlinson also says Deborah enjoyed being around people a lot. 

Unfortunately, Deborah’s life abruptly ended when she was brutally killed in her apartment complex on the 1000 block of Belford Ave. Between 1975 and 1976, her homicide was investigated by Grand Junction detectives, who gathered extensive evidence. However, in April of 1976, after GJPD says they exhausted all leads, the case went cold.

This year, GJPD had a breakthrough. The department partnered with Parabon, a DNA Technology Company, to analyze the unknown semen and blood collected at the crime scene. Chief Genetic Genealogist from Parabon, CeCe Moore, says, “we process the DNA, so we can look at 850,000 genetic markers that will allow us to predict relationships that are distant.” In turn, the lab built a family tree using public records in order to try to identify the unknown person-of-interest. Ultimately, results concluded Jimmy Dean Duncan. So, GJ investigators consensually collected a DNA sample from Mr. Duncan’s brother, completed more traditional police work, and at last, Detective Crocker says, “without a doubt Jimmy Dean Duncan was the killer of Deborah Tomlinson.” Jimmy Dean Duncan passed away in 1987.

In response to the news, Jim Tomlinson says, “it took a lot of weight off my mind. Still don’t know why, but at least I know who.”

At this point, GJPD has found no connection between Jimmy Dean Duncan and Deborah Tomlinson, but investigators found Mr. Duncan had a family member who lived close to the college Deborah attended; therefore, Detective Crocker says, “we believe Mr. Duncan visited this relative, and that’s how possibly he could’ve encountered Ms. Tomlinson.”

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