Police hope DNA testing will solve ’59 murder of Albany teen
COLONIE, N.Y. (AP) — Authorities in the Albany area are hoping modern DNA tracing techniques will help solve the murder of an 18-year-old woman more than 60 years ago.
The body of Ruth Whitman was exhumed from a cemetery in Glenmont last week to perform DNA testing. The case had been cold since the 1990s when police pursued what turned out to be a bogus tip, but was reopened in 2012 when Whitman’s family approached police.
Whitman disappeared in December 1959 after being seen walking away from the scene of a fire at a house in her neighborhood. Police have suspected deceased serial killer Robert Garrow, who lived in Whitman’s neighborhood at the time, but tell the Albany Times-Union they have at least two other people of interest — one in Florida and the other in Connecticut.
Some of the evidence collected by state police at the time of Whitman’s murder was lost over time, but police are hopeful the evidence gathered from the exhumation will lead to a suspect.
“Fundamentally, they collected all the same evidence — they collected the fingernail scrapings at the time, they submitted them to the lab, they determined there was human blood and hair under her fingernails, they just didn’t have the technology to look for DNA,” Deputy Colonie Police Chief Robert Winn told the newspaper.
“We have a lot of information, a lot of potential suspects, although no real direction other than — more questions than answers,” he added.
A bus driver found Whitman’s body the morning after she was last seen. She had been beaten and hit in the head with a blunt object, but there was no evidence she was robbed or sexually assaulted.
Garrow lived near Whitman at the time of her death. He served prison time for rape in the 1960s and was serving a 25-year sentence in 1978 for fatally stabbing a teenager when he escaped from Fishkill State Prison and was shot and killed in the ensuing manhunt.
Students from The College of Saint Rose’s Cold Case Analysis Center have assisted the Colonie police in researching the case. Part of the cost of the exhumation was paid by Seasons of Justice, an organization that provides funding to families for advanced DNA testing for cold case homicides.