DNA from a cigarette butt was used to crack a 38-year-old cold case murder investigation, according to Odessa Police. Bill Wayne Ludwigson, now, 58, has been arrested in the murder of Velma Nesset, Odessa Police said, crediting the Texas Rangers Unsolved Crimes Investigation Program with assisting in the case.
Nesset, who was 64 years old at the time of her death, had allegedly been sexually assaulted and stabbed to death on April 19, 1982, NewsWest9 reported. Her body was found inside a drainage culvert in the 4200 block of Tanglewood. Nesset was employed as a cleaning woman at Permian Mall. Her body was found by two mall security guards, according to an old article obtained by the news station.
Evidence was recovered but no arrests were ever made in the case.
According to an affidavit in 2007, during a re-examination of evidence, semen was found on a jacket Nesset was wearing the day she was killed, but no suspects ever matched and the case again went cold.
That changed, according to police, in July 2020, when investigators zeroed in on Billy Wayne Ludwigson. Investigators learned that Ludwigson had been living in Odessa at the time of Nesset's killing, and had also been arrested on two unrelated charges, NewsWest9 reported. According to officials, Ludwigson had fit the description of the suspect they were looking for.
Investigators traveled to Colorado earlier this year to identify Ludwigson and matched his DNA with a cigarette butt the alleged suspect was believed to have thrown away.
Ludwigson is now in custody in Denver, Colorado, and is pending extradition to Odessa, police say.
“Who would have known 30 years ago, that would have ever been possible that is why we never give up with these cases, specifically these homicides and very serious violent crimes type of cases,” said Odessa Police Department Public Information Officer, Steve LeSueur. “With all the homicides, there is no statute of limitations they are always ongoing so that is why 10, 20, 30, 40 years later we can make an arrest.”