Cold Case DNA

The National Institute of Justice is now providing grants to help solve more violent crimes with DNA evidence.


Shortly after Whorton's murder, infamous serial killers Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Elwood Toole confessed to hundreds of similar rapes and murders across the United States. The only problem, according to Maj. Toney, then a narcotics detective, was the fact that both Lucas and Toole were white. When he learned that the detectives handling the Whorton case were entertaining the idea that Lucas and Toole were the perps, Toney reminded them that they should be looking for a black male. The detectives basically told Maj. Toney to stick with narcotics investigations, and leave homicides to them. The Whorton case was cleared based upon the confessions of Lucas and Toole.

Interestingly, Maj. Toney was not the only person that believed that there was still a killer on the loose. Kathy Whorton's sister, Debbie Whorton Wilson, had been trying to get the case re-opened for years, always believing that her sister's murderer was still on the loose. Her requests fell on deaf ears until October of 2003, when she connected with Maj. Toney who was then in charge of the sheriff's detectives.

The Whorton case was re-opened. There had been five or six original suspects at the time, and an anonymous 911 caller who originally reported finding the body. Over 20 years later, investigators identified and located the anonymous caller, as well as the other suspects. DNA was obtained from all of them and compared to the now-valuable crime scene evidence. No hits. No more suspects. But there was one last hope, the FBI's Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). The DNA evidence from the Whorton case was submitted to CODIS, and the result was a positive match to career criminal Anthony Wilson.

There was one more interesting twist to this case. On March 31, 2007, U.S. Marshal Bill Parker arrested Wilson for this rape/murder of Kathy Whorton. As it turns out, in 1981 Marshal Parker was a rookie deputy with the Ouachita Parish Sheriff's Department, and one of the deputies who originally located Whorton's body. Now, 26 years later, he is part of a combined state/federal warrant task force, and according to Maj. Toney "he was the right guy to put the cuffs on him."

A sad yet amazing story, but one that will continue to be repeated elsewhere as time goes on. Now, the National Institute of Justice is accepting grant applications from departments that wish to pursue the use of DNA evidence in solving violent cold cases.

This solicitation for grant money must be used "to identify, review, and investigate violent crime 'cold cases' that have the potential to be solved using DNA analysis, and to locate and analyze biological evidence associated with these cases."

Permissible uses include:

  1. Salary and Benefits of Additional Employees
  2. Overtime
  3. Travel
  4. Laboratory Equipment
  5. Computer Equipment
  6. Laboratory Supplies
  7. Consultant and Contractor Services
  8. Training
  9. Administrative Expenses

The information for applying for the grant and the application itself can be downloaded at the link below. The money's there. Go get it.

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