William DeRoos

William DeRoos, was identified as the lead suspect in the July 19, 1971 rape and murder of 24-year-old Rita Curran in Burlington, Vermont. Curran, a second-grade teacher, had been strangled to death in her apartment. From injuries she received, it is thought that she put up a significant struggle in the moments before her death. Her body was found by her roommates. The case has been cleared by exception due to the death of DeRoos.

A DNA sample of the suspect was developed from saliva on an uncrushed cigarette butt found next to Curran’s body, as well as biological material found on Curran’s housecoat. The FGG investigation was conducted by Parabon Nanolabs in partnership with the Burlington Police Department. The FGG portions of the investigation was conducted by CeCe Moore, who reportedly was able to identify DeRoos in a matter of hours.

At the time of Curran’s murder, DeRoos lived with his wife two floors upstairs from Curran in the same building. Police stated that they had been married and living in the apartment for only two weeks. They had fought on the night of Curran’s murder, and DeRoos went out for a walk. Police believe that this is when he murdered Curran.

Jeong reports that after police came to question DeRoos and his wife the next morning: “Immediately upon closing the door, he turned to Michelle and told her that if the police ever showed up again, she was to tell them that he had been home all night” because of his criminal history, Trieb said. She complied, repeatedly telling police that her husband hadn’t left the home that night.”

DeRoos is reported to have moved to Thailand shortly after the murder and spent some time as a Buddhist monk. DeRoos second spouse, Sarah Hepting, stated that he once stabbed a woman in front of her, and that he was violent toward her — including an incident in which he choked her. He died of a drug overdose in San Francisco in 1986 at the age of 46.

Curran’s parents are deceased, but her siblings are alive and they thank the investigators who worked on this file for their compassion and assistance over the years.


Concklin, Audrey. “Vermont Cold Case Murder Suspect Fled County, Became Monk After Strangling Woman.” Fox News, February 21, 2023. Accessed February 22, 2023. https://www.foxnews.com/us/vermont-cold-case-murder-suspect-fled-country-became-monk-after-strangling-woman.

Jeong, Andrew. “DNA on a Cigarette Butt Just Helped Solve a 52-Year-Old Murder.” Washington Post, February 22, 2023. Accessed February 22, 2023. https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2023/02/22/rita-curran-dna-murder-william-deroos/.

St. Angelo, Lilly. “A 24-Year-Old Teacher Was Murdered in 1971. DNA on a Cigarette Butt Just Solved the Case.” USA Today, February 22, 2023. Accessed February 22, 2023. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2023/02/22/cold-case-solved-dna-cigarette-rita-curran/11320406002/


First Name William
Last Name DeRoos
Other Names
Victims 1 (Details)
IGG Started nd
Case Cleared 2023-02-21
IGG Org Parabon


Case ID Name Age Case Opened Location Investigating Org Most Serious Charge Disposition Court
1848 Rita Curran 24 1971-07-19 Burlington, VT Burlington PD Second 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.