Ronney Lee

On July 20, 2023, police identified Ronney James Lee as the lead suspect in the September 28, 1981 rape and murder of 23-year-old Laura Kempton in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The case has been cleared by exception due to the death of Lee.

Kempton was murdered in her apartment by an intruder who broke in and sexually assaulted her. She was last seen coming home from an evening out with friends in the early morning hours of September 28. She was found the next morning by an officer serving a court summons. She was killed by blunt force trauma to the left side of her head, likely with a wine bottle. A green pillowcase was wrapped around her head and neck. Her legs were bound with a white cord.

One of the samples used to obtain a DNA profile was obtained from a cigarette butt in Kempton’s apartment. Other samples came from semen from the victim’s thigh and from the green pillowcase.

The FGG investigation was conducted by Identifinders International in partnership with the Portsmouth Police Department, beginning in 2022. It was reported that whole genome sequencing was used to obtain a profile suitable for genetic genealogy. Identifinders had earlier examined the Y-STR profile of the suspect in March of 2017. The final confirmation was made to a blood card taken during Lee’s autopsy.

Lee was 21 years old at the time of Kempton’s murder. He passed away from a cocaine overdose on February 9, 2005. He is reported to have served in the U.S. Army until 1981. He was convicted in 1987 of another home invasion sexual assault in Keene, New Hampshire. He served about three years for this offence, and was released in 1990. Prosecutors stated that he would have been charged with first-degree murder had he lived.

Kempton had just enrolled in a local beauty school, and was working in a gift shop and an ice cream parlour at the time of her death. Her family describes her as a free spirit who loved new age fashion.


Identifinders International. “1981 Laura Kempton Homicide Solved Using Forensic Genetic Genealogy.” Accesswire, July 20, 2023. Accessed July 22, 2023.

Kalmbacher, Colin. “‘Closure: Cold Case Rape and Murder of Woman Believed to Have Been Beaten to Death with Wine Bottle in 1981 Finally Solved.” Law & Crime, July 22, 2023. Accessed July 22, 2023.

Katersky, Aaron, and Meredith Deliso. “Decades-Old New Hampshire Cold Case Murder Solved Through Genetic Genealogy, Officials Say.” ABC News, July 20, 2023. Accessed July 22, 2023.


First Name Ronney
Last Name Lee
Other Names
Victims 1 (Details)
IGG Started 2022-00-00
Case Cleared 2023-07-20
IGG Org Identifinders


Case ID Name Age Case Opened Location Investigating Org Most Serious Charge Disposition Court
2012 Laura Kempton 23 1981-09-28 Portsmouth, NH Portsmouth PD First degree murder Case was cleared by exception due to death of perpetrator n/a

Last updated: February 9, 2024

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Case data and narrative licensed under CC BY 4.0: Dowdeswell, Tracey (2023), “Forensic Genetic Genealogy Project v. 2022”, Mendeley Data, V1, doi: 10.17632/jcycgvhm96.1. All other content, including photos, have been added.