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Serial killer identified by Denver police 40 years after murders of five women

By Adam Schrader
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Serial killer identified by Denver police 40 years after murders of five women
Molly and Ariel Livaudais speak during a press conference about the 1978 death of their mother, Madeleine Furey-Livaudais, at the hands of a serial killer. Photo courtesy Denver Police Department

Jan. 28 (UPI) -- A serial killer has been identified more than 40 years after he murdered three women and a pregnant teenager, as well as an Aurora police officer, the Denver Police Department announced Friday.

Joe Michael Ervin is suspected to have killed the three women and the teenager between 1978 and 1981 after their individual cold cases were linked by DNA evidence, police said during a televised news conference.

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His suspected killing spree ended after he was jailed for the murder of a female police officer who had pulled him over. Ervin died by suicide in 1981 while in jail for the shooting death of officer Debra Sue Corr earlier that year. The killing of Corr, who Ervin was suspected of shooting with her own service weapon, marked the first line-of-duty death for the Aurora Police Department.

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The four cold-case victims, who had all been stabbed to death, were Madeleine Furey-Livaudais, 33, Dolores Barajas, 53, Gwendolyn Harris, 27, and 17-year-old Antoinette Parks.

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"I appreciate the patience and resiliency of the families and the community over the past 40 years as these cases remained unsolved. These women were not forgotten," Commander Matt Clark, with the Denver Police Department, said during the press conference.

The reign of terror started Dec. 7, 1978 when Furey-Livaudais, a wife and mother of two, was found dead in her home on Poplar Street in Denver after Ervin "forced his way" into her home and stabbed her multiple times.

Barajas was walking to work at the cafeteria of the Fairmont Hotel on the morning of Aug. 10, 1980 when she was attacked Ervin and stabbed to death. Her body was found in the middle of the street. Clark said that Barajas had just moved to Denver from El Paso, Texas a few months before her murder.

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Just a few months later, Harris was found lying dead on a street in the Montbello neighborhood of Denver after being stabbed multiple times.

Parks, who was about seven months pregnant, was found dead from multiple stab wounds in a field on Jan. 24, 1981.

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George and Karl Journey, two of Parks' brothers, said during the press conference that the family "can finally have peace." George Journey, who wore a shirt bearing the names of his siblings, said that the Journey brothers were the last surviving siblings of six children.

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"This has taken a long time, but we can finally have peace knowing who did this to my little sister," George Journey said.

The cases were initially investigated as separate incidences but were eventually tied by DNA evidence between 2013 and 2018 after first discovering matching DNA evidence in the cases of Furey-Livaudais and Barajas.

"With this new evidence, the investigative team had renewed hope that the individual responsible for these deaths could be identified," Clark said.

Investigators then used genetic genealogy to identify family members of Elvin in Texas, which ultimately led to him being named as the suspect. Cops then exhumed his remains and tested his DNA against that of the four victims.

Furey-Livaudais' daughters Molly and Ariel Livaudais said during the press conference that their mother was a writer who wrote for nature magazines and had published a book.

"She was an ecologist with a passion for the natural world and the environment," Molly Livaudais said. "She was a loving wife, sister, daughter, and mother to two of her young girls. In 1978, she had that future ripped away from her."

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Molly Livaudais said that learning about the line-of-duty death of Corr "has been personally very impactful."

"She was out doing her job when she attempted to arrest this serial killer for an unrelated crime," Molly Livaudais said. "With her sacrifice, she prevented him from killing anyone else."

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