By LAUREN SILVER Court TV
BOONE COUNTY, Ky. — Nearly fifty years after her body was found brutally murdered and left in a roadside ditch, detectives in Kentucky said that they have solved the murder of Carol Sue Klaber.
Klaber’s body was found on June 5, 1976, one day after she was last seen alive. The medical examiner ruled Klaber died from blunt force trauma and said that there was evidence of sexual assault and strangulation.
In the course of the investigation, detectives identified two suspects in Klaber’s murder, both of whom were later cleared.
Boone County Sheriff Michael Helmig said in a news release that DNA collected from the 1976 crime scene was tested and definitively identified a suspect in Klaber’s murder.
“We are celebrating (Klaber’s) case being solved,” Helmig said at a news conference. “We are not celebrating the individual who took her life.”
The DNA, which was recovered from the scene along with fingerprints, was sent to Orthram Inc., a private laboratory specializing in forensics. Funding for the testing was provided by Season of Justice and the Kentucky State Police Central Forensic Center.
Orthram used “Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing” to build a DNA profile of the suspect in September 2022, before its in-house genealogy team used genetic genealogy to develop investigative leads for the Boone County Sheriff’s Office. On Jan. 23, 2023, Orthram contacted the sheriff’s office to suggest it contact a family to collect reference DNA to compare against the DNA from the crime scene.
Helmig said the DNA identified Thomas W. Dunaway, originally of Park Hills, Kentucky, as the suspect in Klaber’s murder. Dunaway was 19 in 1976, and died in 1990 at age 33 after developing “an extensive and violent criminal history.”
Detectives determined that Dunaway enlisted with the military shortly after Klaber’s murder. Dunaway enlisted at a recruiting office on June 14, 1976, and graduated in Fort Knox on Aug. 12, 1976. He reported for duty at Ft. Carson, Colorado, on Aug. 24, 1976, but was reported AWOL on Dec. 3.
Dunaway was later convicted of murdering Ronald Townsend, 19, who was found shot several times on Dec. 17, 1976.