Suspect in 1983 Killing of Laura Marie Purchase Arrested After Serial Killer Falsely Confessed to Crime

Laura Marie Purchase and Thomas Elvin Darnell
Montgomery County Sheriff's Office

A self-proclaimed serial killer had once insisted that he was responsible for killing Purchase. But now police say they have found a 75-year-old man with a DNA match.

A 75-year-old Texas man was arrested in connection with a cold case involving a woman who was found strangled and set ablaze in a wooded area nearly 40 years ago, marking a twist in a drawn-out case after a notorious serial killer already confessed to the crime, authorities announced.

Henry Lee Lucas, also famously known as the Highway Stalker, falsely confessed to killing Laura Marie Purchase and was convicted of the crime in 1986, according to authorities.

Lucas had also confessed to nearly 600 other vicious crimes and murders he claimed to have committed between 1960 and 1983 but investigators later discovered that nearly 200 of those crimes he wrongly confessed to, according to reports.

Lucas was sentenced to the death penalty but was then commuted to life in prison. He died in 2001. The infamous killer went on to be featured in Netflix's crime series "The Confession Killer."

But Lucas and a co-defendant, Otis Elwood Toole, were eliminated as suspects by DNA testing in 2008, authorities said.

After investigators in 2019 re-tested DNA samples found at the crime scene, the genealogy report indicated that Thomas Elvin Darnell was a potential suspect in her death, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office announced Friday.

A search warrant was issued for Darnell and detectives found a positive match with DNA samples collected at his Kansas City home.

Darnell was charged with capital murder on Friday for the 1983 murder of Laura Marie Darnell, the Montgomery County Sheriff's Office announced last week.

Laura Marie Purchase was discovered on March 17, 1983, dead in a burning wooded area near League Line Road in Texas by a Montgomery County Sheriff's Deputy, according to reports.

Purchase had originally been reported missing from Houston on March 5, days before she was found at the horrific scene. She was last known to be living with a man named "Howie" who played in a band called "Malibu," police said in a police report.

An autopsy revealed she had been sexually assaulted and her cause of death was strangulation.

Darnell has been extradited to Montgomery County where he is being held without bond for the heinous crime.

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