Also known as Curtis Allen White, James Clanton was arrested on September 11, 2019 for the January 16, 1980 rape and murder of 21-year-old Helene Pruszynski in Englewood, Colorado. Pruszynski was an aspiring journalist who had come to Denver for an internship at a local radio station. Her body was found in a field after she failed to come home from work. She had been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death, her hands bound behind her.
The case was reopened in 1998, and a DNA profile was obtained from semen found at the crime scene. The FGG investigation was conducted by Parabon Nanolabs, as well as Joan Hanlon of United Data Connect. In this case, researchers narrowed the suspect list down to James and a brother, William White Jr., who had a history of sexual misconduct. Investigators surreptitiously sampled William’s DNA from a mug in a bar where he was drinking, but he was excluded. Clanton’s DNA was then tested surreptitiously and found to be a match.
Clanton confessed to investigators upon his arrest, and he eventually pled guilty. The statute of limitations barred charges for the sexual assault, but he was sentenced to life without parole for 20 years for Pruszynski’s murder. At the time of the murder, Clanton was on parole after serving 4 years for a previous rape.
Associated Press. “Man Pleads Guilty to 1980 Colorado Killing of Wheaton College Student Helene Pruszynski.” CBS Local Boston, February 21, 2020. Accessed December 12, 2020. https://boston.cbslocal.com/2020/02/21/james-curtis-clanton-pleads-guilty-1980-colorado-killing-wheaton-college-student-helene-pruszynski/.
Bradbury, Shelly. “Killer Sentenced to Life in Prison in 1980 Colorado Cold Case Solved With DNA.” Denver Post, July 1, 2020. Accessed December 12, 2020. https://www.denverpost.com/2020/07/01/helene-pruszynski-murder-james-clanton-colorado/.
KUSA Staff. “Solving a 1980 Cold Case Murder Took the Work of More than 100 People from Over 2 Dozen Organizations.” NBC 9 News, September 4, 2020, last modified September 5, 2020. Accessed December 12, 2020. https://www.9news.com/article/news/investigations/helene-pruszynski-cold-case-investigators/73-bc403d91-eaf3-4fcf-86a9-8b2182e68a11.
Osborne, Ryan. “Man Pleads Guilty in 1980 Murder for Colorado’s First Conviction Through Genealogy Testing.” The Denver Channel, February 21, 2020. Accessed December 12, 2020. https://www.thedenverchannel.com/news/local-news/man-pleads-guilty-in-1980-murder-for-colorados-first-conviction-through-genealogy-testing.
Vaughan, Kevin. “40 Years in the Dark: How Genetic Genealogy Solved the Helene Pruszynski Murder Case.” NBC 9 News. September 5, 2020. Accessed December 12, 2020. https://www.9news.com/article/news/investigations/40-years-dark-helene-pruszynski-cold-case-documentary/73-d69931af-088a-42ec-ac0e-2b16bc233a45.