A nearly four-decade-old cold case involving the abduction, rape and murder of an 8-year-old girl was pronounced closed Friday when Columbus police said a new genealogical testing technique identified the girl’s killer

For years, police sought clues in the death of Kelly Prosser, abducted while walking home from a Columbus elementary school on 20 September 1982. Her body was found in a Madison County cornfield two days later.

Detectives began working with a genealogy company in the past few months to use DNA from the crime scene to identify the suspect. After establishing a family tree, police interviewed family members and determined that Harold Warren Jarrell was Kelly’s killer.

Jarrell died in Las Vegas in 1996 at 67

Jarrell was convicted of a similar abduction in Columbus in 1977 but no evidence tied him to Prosser’s case, police said.

“It is satisfying to let the family know what happened to their little girl though it doesn’t bring her back,” said Detective Dana Croom of the police department’s Cold Case Unit.

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The technique known as genetic genealogy testing and research has solved a number of high-profile cold cases nationally in recent years, including California’s so-called Golden State Killer.

Read the moving statement from Kelly Ann’s family below:

Statement from Kelly Ann’s family:

For almost 38 years our family has spoken for the one who was silenced and whose young life was cut short – Kelly Ann Prosser.

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

Our family has spent many long years waiting for Kelly Ann’s murder to be solved. But Kelly’s family is not unique. Those who have suffered the murder of their loved one knows how devastating waiting for answers can be. Nor are we the only family who has laid awake at night hoping and praying that their missing child would return home safely.

Today is one of those bittersweet moments that has been a long time coming. Our family is blessed to have finally gotten an answer, after nearly four decades, on who abducted, sexually assaulted, and murdered our darling Kelly Ann.

While new technology, advanced investigative techniques and other factors have been an undeniable part of solving this homicide case the real credit goes to all the local, state, federal and partnering law enforcement agencies who showed tenacity, dedication, and tremendous teamwork in solving Kelly Ann’s case.

There are no words to express how deeply our gratitude extends to all of you.

We would like to specially recognize the many Columbus Division of Police Homicide detectives who have worked countless hours on this case trying to find Kelly’s perpetrator to hold that individual accountable for her murder. Most recently this has been Detective Dana Croom, Sergeant Terry McDonnell, and retired detectives Ron Custer and James McCoskey. Officer Greg Colarich also contributed by developing a podcast about Kelly Ann’s case. Gentlemen – thank you for never giving up, thank you

for never forgetting about this innocent child, and thank you for never forgetting that you were working for Kelly Ann. Your perseverance and determination, your caring and professional manner, your patience, diligence, and sacrifices have not gone unnoticed.

It is a better place because of your service with the Columbus Division of Police, Cold Case Homicide Unit. Please know this – today you have given us the most incredible gift. And this gives us hope that other homicide cold cases will be solved.

Kelly Ann’s family is also appreciative of the continued interest by the media with regards to Kelly Ann’s abduction, sexual assault, and murder case. Although many of you would like to talk with us please understand that old wounds have been reopened and our family now faces new heartaches. Therefore, as Kelly’s family begins this new cycle of healing we do ask for privacy and we trust that you will respect our wishes.

Kelly Ann was our beauty and our love

She sparkled with laughter and her blooming spirit shined amidst the thorns. Her light has been – and will always be – deeply missed. Today, and forever, family and friends will remember our precious little girl.

May Kelly Ann, in the arms of her beloved grandmothers Rose and Eleanor, now rest in peace.

Questions most asked by the Media

Do we feel a sense of justice?

The answer is no. Justice is only a “consolation prize”. Without any means of restoring the precious life that was taken there could never be such a thing as justice. We are grateful however, since Kelly Ann’s killer is deceased, that we will be spared the ordeal of suffering through a painful trial. And we can be thankful we will escape the miserable torment of a murderer who would spend his empty prison days testing the weaknesses of the court system.

OR if living and will go to trial:

We are grateful that Kelly Ann’s killer has been found and he will go on trial for her abduction, sexual assault, and murder. We do not look forward to suffering through a painful trial and know we will not escape the miserable torment of a murderer who will spend his empty prison days testing the weaknesses of the court system.

Does this bring us closure?

The answer is no. The word closure in and of itself is a word too often used. One can have a conclusion, but one can never have closure. Personally, for Kelly’s Mom, closure will only happen when she takes her last breath. Today, Kelly’s family and friends have arrived at one long awaited moment – they now know who murdered her. Ultimately this may be the only answer we will receive – and that is a reality we will face.

Do you have any advice for other victims of crime?

Surviving is not a destination but a journey. As a survivor of crime, you hate that the person responsible for this crime is banging around inside your head. SO, WELCOME THEM AND THANK THEM. Thank them for helping make you strong. Thank them for going to prison (or dying) so you can go on. Thank them for teaching you more about forgiveness. Thank them for showing you that YOU ARE a survivor. A person who could commit such a horrific crime has no defense against your gratitude. So, welcome them and thank them – and they will leave your head and your heart all on their own.

Can you forgive Kelly Ann’s killer?

This Bible quote from Numbers Chapter 14, Verse 18 says: “The LORD is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty.” In other words, God will handle those who have wronged us, for He does not let the guilty go.

Forgiveness is not just a kindness to others; it is a kindness to us. Forgiveness is for our own growth and happiness. Forgiveness frees us to live in the present. Forgiveness allows us to move on without anger, contempt, or seeking revenge. Forgiveness is not forgetting; forgiveness means letting go of the pain the incident caused us. And truthfully, hatred is too heavy a burden for anyone to bear.

So, in time, we will be capable of showing empathy for the person who refused to show any compassion to our Kelly Ann. The reason we will do this is BECAUSE of Kelly Ann – to honor the sweet and loving little girl that she was.

 

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Author: ANA Newswire