Georgia authorities have solved the 51-year-old cold-case murder of 9-year-old Debbie Lynn Randall, who disappeared while walking home from a laundromat in 1972.
The Cobb County District Attorney's Office on Monday named William B. Rose of Mableton, who was 24 at the time, as the suspect in her killing. He took his own life two years after the heinous crime.
"The loss of a loved one, especially one of such a tender age, is difficult to comprehend. This family has waited for decades for an answer," Cobb County DA Flynn D. Broady Jr. said in a Monday statement. "This information will not replace the pain of losing Debbie Lynn. We are very grateful for the unwavering dedication, persistence and commitment from Det. Ron Alter of the Cold Case Unit and all our partner agencies to provide some closure to this case."
Broady added that the "mission" of the DA's office is to "deliver justice regardless of how much time has passed."
Randall, a third-grade student from Pine Forest Elementary School in Marietta, was abducted, raped and strangled to death on Jan. 13, 1972. The laundromat was only half-a-block away from her home.
Her family reported her missing, and her remains were not located until 16 days later.
The Cobb County Cold Case Unit obtained the case in 2015 and began testing evidence from the crime scene for DNA. Due to recent advances in genetic genealogy technology, the cold case unit was able to identify a familial DNA profile and linked Rose to Randall's murder in 2023 after investigators exhumed his body.
In other words, one of Rose's "distant" family members uploaded DNA to a public website, and investigators were able to link that profile to DNA found at the crime scene and eventually to Rose himself, according to cold case investigator Ron Alter.
Broady commended the Marietta Police Department for its meticulous efforts to collect and preserve evidence from the scene where Randall's body was found.
Randall's brother, Melvin Randall, spoke during a Monday press conference announcing the conclusion of his sister's murder case.
"I wish my mother was here, but I know she knows in Heaven now that it's finally over, and we just want to say that we thank all of you for what you've done," he said.
Later on Melvin said he was 10 years old at the time of his sister's disappearance and was sick the day she vanished, so he could not "go outside" with her.
"After a while… I blamed myself for it because I was her big brother, and I battled with it for a while, but then I realized that there was nothing I could have done, and it just happened, and it wasn't my fault. I'm just grateful for the community," Melvin said.
Investigators determined that Rose had family members who lived in the same apartment complex as the 9-year-old victim.
Alter noted that children living in the apartment complex frequently played outside. Rose had likely seen Randall before and possibly abducted her "as a crime of opportunity," Alter said. He added that Rose was not on authorities' "radar at all" as a potential suspect in the case. His only priors included an alcohol-related arrest.