Thomas Darnell

Thomas Elvin Darnell was arrested on May 11, 2021 at his home in Kansas City, Kansas for the March 17, 1983 murder of 26-year-old Laura Marie Purchase near Conroe in Montgomery County, Texas. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death. Her body was then posed in a field and set on fire, where it was discovered by a deputy of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.

The FBI was able to identify Purchase in May of 1986 using her fingerprints. By this time, Henry Lee Lucas had confessed to her murder. Lucas and his friend, Ottis Elwood Toole, had been convicted of the murder earlier in 1986. The evidence against Purchase was then dismissed as being of little relevance.

A DNA profile was obtained in 2008 from semen taken from Purchase’s body during her autopsy. This profile eliminated both Lucas and Toole. Lucas passed away in prison in 2001, and Toole passed away in prison in 1996.

There is currently no information on who conducted the FGG investigation.

Darnell was extradited to Montgomery County to face charges of capital murder in Montgomery County Superior Court. However, he died from natural causes in July of 2021 while detained in the Montgomery County Jail and the case has now been closed.


KTRK. “75-Year-Old Man Arrested for 1983 Murder in Montgomery County.” ABC 13 Eyewitness News, May 21, 2021. Accessed February 13, 2023.

KYRK. “Montgomery County Cold Case Murder Suspect Dies of Natural Causes.” ABC News 13, July 29, 2021. Accessed January 27, 2023.

Luperon, Alberto. “DNA Leads to 1983 Murder Suspect After Authorities Debunk Previous Admission of ‘Confession Killer’ from Netflix Docuseries.” Law & Crime, May 21, 2021. Accessed May 21, 2021.

O’Connell, Oliver. “Arrest Made in Decades-Old Texas Cold Case Murder to Which Notorious Serial Killer Had Falsely Confessed.” The Independent, May 21, 2021. Accessed May 21, 2021.

Unidentified Wiki. “Laura Purchase.”, n.d. Accessed April 24, 2022.


First Name Thomas
Last Name Darnell
Other Names
Victims 1 (Details)
IGG Started 2019-10-00
Case Cleared 2021-05-11
IGG Org nd


Case ID Name Age Case Opened Location Investigating Org Most Serious Charge Disposition Court
1483 Laura Purchase 26 1983-03-17 Montgomery CO, TX Montgomery CSO Second degree murder Suspect died while the trial was ongoing Montgomery CO DIST CT

Last updated: February 9, 2024

To contribute information on new or existing IGG cases, use this form.

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.