Seventeen-year-old Carla Walker's 1974 abduction and murder went unsolved until an arrest last year connected the suspect to the crime through advances in genealogy and DNA testing

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carla walker
Carla Walker
| Credit: Facebook

A 78-year-old man accused of abducting and killing a 17-year-old girl after a high school Valentine's dance 47 years ago abruptly halted his murder trial with a guilty plea Tuesday, and immediately was sentenced to serve the rest of his life in prison.

"I wish you'd done this a long time ago," Cindy Stone, the sister of victim Carla Walker, said in court after the suspect's admission of guilt, reports Fort Worth TV station KXAS. "You kept saying in your confession that, 'that wasn't you,' 'it just wasn't you.'"

"That's you," she said.

Testimony already had begun in the trial of Glen Samuel McCurley, whose arrest last September promised an answer to the long-unsolved crime, when he delivered a written confession to the judge in a Tarrant County courtroom, reports KDFW.

Walker was dressed for the dance she'd attended earlier at Western Hills High School on Feb. 17, 1974, when she was pulled from the passenger seat of her boyfriend's car parked outside a bowling alley. Two days later Walker's strangled and sexually assaulted body was found abandoned in a culvert.

McCurley had told the boyfriend, Rodney McCoy, "I am going to kill you," before the boy passed out from a pistol-whipping, according to an arrest warrant affidavit, reports WFAA.

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Police on the scene later discovered a magazine for a 22-caliber Ruger pistol, and determined that McCurley, a previously convicted car thief who lived about a mile from the bowling alley, had purchased such a gun.

Interviewed in 1974, McCurley said his gun had been stolen while he was fishing, but he didn't report it because he was an ex-con, according to the arrest warrant.

Police learned McCurley was off work the night of the kidnapping and again the next day, and that his wife was out of town at the time. He denied any involvement.

But he never fell off the radar of investigators.

Over the years, detectives ran preserved DNA evidence from the victim's clothing through several databases -- and one genealogy database eventually linked to three brothers with the McCurley surname as possible matches, according to the arrest warrant.

Glen Samuel McCurley
Glen Samuel McCurley
| Credit: Tarrant County Jail

Police obtained a sample of McCurley's DNA from his trash in July 2020. When it was found to match the DNA on the victim, they questioned him again, and he once more denied involvement but offered a voluntary DNA swab.

Once more, it matched with the DNA found on the victim's clothing, and McCurley was arrested and charged.

"How did you kill her?" investigators asked in a videotaped interrogation played for jurors at McCurley's trial on Monday, reports KDFW.

"I just choked her," he answered in the interrogation.

Walker's teen boyfriend said he's carried guilt -- and the burden of knowing that some considered him a suspect -- for years. "I just felt I let Mr. Walker down … he said 'take care of my little flower,'" McCoy said, reports WFAA.

Before McCurley's guilty plea, McCoy testified that he and Walker had stopped after the dance at a Taco Bell and then drove to the bowling alley to use the restroom before returning to his car, where they began to kiss against the passenger door. "The car door yanked open," he said, and the pair partially fell out as someone hit him on the head.

"I remember I was holding her and the blood started flowing down my forehead down into my eyes," he testified, according to WFAA. "I'm not sure how many times I got hit. I believe it was more than once, according to Carla's reaction. She screamed, 'Stop hitting him!'"

The attacker pointed a gun at him. "He pulled the trigger three times," he said. "And all I heard were the three clicks. Nothing came out of the gun."

As the attacker pulled the girl away, McCoy testified, "Carla turned her face to me, and I can visualize, and said, 'Rodney, go get dad. Go get my dad.' That's the last words I heard from Carla."

After McCurley's sentencing, McCoy said, "It's torment, it's torment. You try to push it to the back of your mind but it always comes forward," reports KDFW.

"It's been 47 years. I had a cloud of suspicion on me for all those years. That's torment," he said, according to KXAS.

Walker's brother, Jim Walker, said the family had forgiven her killer.

"This is a time of healing. It's funny to say that after almost 50 years, isn't it?" he said after the sentencing, reports KXAS. "What we witnessed is a lot of feelings in that courtroom and now it's time to move forward and hopefully be able to help other families."