On March 1, 2023, authorities arrested 59-year-old Larry Padgett for the rape and murder of 23-year-old Mary Lucille Willfong near Forest Park, Georgia.
Willfong’s body was found by deer hunters on November 21, 1989, along the Johnstonville road near the I-75 Highway. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death. Willfong was last seen at a farmers’ market in Forest Park, outside of Atlanta, getting into a tractor trailer with an unknown man.
The case was reopened in March of 2019 for new DNA testing. The FGG investigation was performed by DNA International in Miami, Florida in partnership with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, and the assistance of the FBI’s Atlanta Office.
Padgett was arrested in Loogootee, Indiana, and is awaiting extradition to Georgia. He is facing charges of homicide and sexual assault in Monroe County Superior Court.
Investigators stated that over the years, DNA samples were taken from several suspects, all of whom were cleared of involvement.
Fox 5 Atlanta Digital Team. “DNA Links Indiana Man to Georgia Woman’s 33-Year-Old Cold Case Murder: Sheriff.” Fox 5 News Atlanta, March 2, 2023. Accessed March 5, 2023. https://www.fox5atlanta.com/news/dna-links-indiana-man-to-georgia-womans-33-year-old-cold-case-murder-sheriff.
Lambe, Jerry. “Man Arrested More than 3 Decades After Atlanta Woman Found Raped and Strangled in Woods.” Law & Crime, March 4, 2023. Accessed March 5, 2023. https://lawandcrime.com/crime/man-arrested-more-than-3-decades-after-atlanta-woman-found-raped-and-strangled-in-woods/.
Mann, Sophie. “Indiana Man is Arrested After Woman, 23, was Raped and Strangled in Woods Over 30 YEARS Ago – in the Latest Homicide Cold Case Breakthrough Thanks to Advanced DNA Testing.” Daily Mail, March 5, 2023. Accessed March 5, 2023. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-11823483/Cold-case-clues-lead-Indiana-mans-arrest-woman-raped-strangled-nearly-40-years-ago.html.
Raymond, Jonathan. “A Woman Vanished in 1989 After Getting into a Tractor Trailer. Now There’s a Murder Arrest.” 11 Alive, March 2, 2023. Accessed March 5, 2023. https://www.11alive.com/article/news/crime/mary-willfong-murder-1989-cold-case-arrest-larry-padgett/85-d6137866-7511-495b-88dd-6ca02324a6d9.