Glen Samuel McCurley was arrested on September 22, 2020 and charged in the February 16, 1974 rape and murder of 17-year-old Carla Jan Walker in Fort Worth, Texas.
Walker was with her boyfriend, Rodney McCoy, in the passenger seat of his car in the parking lot of a local bowling alley when she was abducted. McCoy was beaten very badly in the head with a gun that was later found dropped close to the car. Walker’s body was found dumped in a culvert three days later. She had been drugged with morphine, beaten, raped, and tortured for about two days before she died from her injuries. She was wearing a blue gown with white lace, as she and McCoy had just attended a Valentine’s Day dance.
A DNA profile of the suspect was obtained from her clothing and her bra. The FGG investigation was conducted by Othram. The FGG investigation narrowed the list of suspects down to the three McCurley brothers. Glen was a person of interest during the initial investigation because he had owned the same kind of firearm that was found at the crime scene, but at the time there was no other evidence linking him to the crimes. Investigators used the surreptitious sampling of trash that McCurley had discarded outside his residence. When police interviewed him, he denied involvement and voluntarily provided a DNA sample.
Rodney McCoy, despite his injuries, was long a suspect in the crime. He spent his entire life under a cloud of suspicion.
In 1978 in Tennessee, another man confessed to killing Walker, but police had “major reservations” about the confession, and he later admitted to being intoxicated on alcohol and drugs when he made it. The charges against him were eventually dismissed.
McCurley pled guilty to charges of capital murder on August 24, 2021 – on the third day of his trial. He was sentenced to life in prison. Police suspect that he may be responsible for several similar homicides in the Fort Worth area in the early 1970s.
McCurley then appealed his conviction, claiming that the DNA evidence should never have been admitted. On August 31, 2022, the Court of Appeals at Fort Worth denied his appeal and affirmed his conviction.
McCurely had argued that the trash pull was unlawful as police had not obtained a warrant. He also argued that the results of the FGG investigation by Othram should not be admissible because Othram was not accredited by the Texas Commission of Forensic Science (TCFS) and its employees were not licensed by TCFS. He also argued that his confession to police was coerced, as he had been promised that he would not receive the death penalty if he confessed. The court found that there was no evidence that officers had made such a promise to him.
The court also held that the search of abandoned trash was not a violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The court cited several judgments from other jurisdictions which had also found that a person does not maintain a right to privacy in DNA evidence obtained from discarded personal property.
With respect to arguments that neither Othram nor its analysts were accredited, the State responded that these techniques were so new that there was, as yet, no accreditation process available. The court declined to rule on whether the trial court erred in its findings, but found that the admission of the evidence was harmless. The court found that there was overwhelming admissible evidence as to McCurley’s guilt. The corroborating forensic STR DNA profile was an important part of this evidence, but so was McCurley’s confession, as well as the pistol used in the murder that he turned over to police.
Othram and Sorenson Forensics are currently working on an accreditation process that will combine SNP and STR sequencing into a single workflow.
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Hollandsworth, Skip. “Glen McCurley Strangled Carla Walker in 1974. Was She His Only Victim.” Texas Monthly, August, 2022. Accessed August 6, 2022. https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/glen-mccurley-carla-walker-murder/.
Johnson, Kaley. “Glen McCurley Changes Plea to Guilty in Carla Walker Murder Trial in Fort Worth.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, August 24, 2021. Accessed December 29, 2021. https://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/crime/article253703023.html.
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McCurley v. State of Texas. On Appeal from Criminal District Court No. 1, Tarrant County, Texas Trial Court No. 1657724D,
No. 02-21-00122-CR (August 31, 2022).
Marfin, Catherine, and Charles Scudder. “DNA Match Leads Fort Worth Police to Arrest Man in 1974 Murder of 17-Year-Old Girl.” Dallas Morning News, September 22, 2020. Accessed December 26, 2020. https://www.dallasnews.com/news/crime/2020/09/22/fort-worth-police-make-arrest-in-cold-case-murder-that-has-remained-unsolved-for-46-years/.
Othram. “Othram and Sorenson Forensics Partner to Develop a Unified Workflow for ISO17025-Accredited Forensic DNA Testing.” Othram, February 8, 2023. Accessed May 30, 2023. https://othram.com/press_release/2023-02-08-othram-sorenson.html.
Roth, Brian. “Suspect Arrested in 1974 Cold Case Murder of Carla Walker; Was ‘Random Attack’: Police.” NBC Dallas Fort Worth, September 22, 2020. Accessed December 26, 2020. https://www.nbcdfw.com/news/local/fort-worth-pd-announces-arrest-in-1974-cold-case-murder-of-carla-walker/2448016/.
Tron, Gina. “DNA Leads to Break, Arrest in Unsolved Murder of ‘Spitfire’ Cheerleader Who Was Kidnapped After Valentine’s Day Dance.” Oxygen, September 23, 2020. Accessed December 26, 2020. https://www.oxygen.com/crime-news/glen-mccurley-charged-murder-carla-walker-cold-case-paul-holes.