Tags: murder | cigarette | mother | 1985

Cigarette Butt Leads to Solving 1985 Murder Case  

Cigarette Butt Leads to Solving 1985 Murder Case  
Daniel Wells was arrested in connection with the 1985 murder of Tonya McKinley in Florida. (Escambia County Jail; Pensacola Police)

By    |   Friday, 20 March 2020 01:00 PM

A discarded cigarette butt has helped police catch the man responsible for murdering a young mother in 1985.

Daniel Leonard Wells was arrested on Wednesday evening and charged with first-degree murder and first-degree sexual battery for killing 23-year-old Tonya Ethridge McKinley, who had an 18-month son, then discarding her body near a Florida highway, according to The Daily Beast.   

For 35-years investigators had been working to solve the cold case. Their breakthrough came after retrieving a cigarette butt containing Wells' DNA and matching it to evidence gathered from the original crime scene.  

"Today, the evil that took Tonya from her friends and family was arrested for her brutal murder,” the Pensacola Police Department said in a statement. "The reasons why this happened, how evil crossed Tonya’s path, may never be answered and in the end may not be important. What is important is that no one forgot Tonya."  

McKinley went missing in the early hours of January 1, 1985, after celebrating New Year's Eve at a Pensacola bar. A family walking their dog discovered her body four hours later in an empty lot near a highway. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.  

Investigators were able to recover DNA from the scene but at the time could not find a match. The case eventually ran cold but several detectives continued to look for the killer. 

They eventually made development in the case through open-source genealogy databases which matched DNA evidence to several distant cousins of Wells. 

Investigators then narrowed the search down and identified Wells as a possible suspect and were able to arrest him after following him around and eventually retrieving DNA from his discarded cigarette butt. He is now being held without bond at Escambia County Jail.   

McKinley’s son, Timothy Davidson Jr., told The Daily Beast that he would only find solace once "there is a conviction and justice has been served." He said it felt "unbelievable" that the killer was finally caught and added that his mother "can finally rest in peace." 

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A discarded cigarette butt has helped police catch the man responsible for murdering a young mother in 1985.
murder, cigarette, mother, 1985
336
2020-00-20
Friday, 20 March 2020 01:00 PM
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