For nearly 45 years, authorities did not know the name or life story of a woman who was shot dead and left off the side of a logging road in western Massachusetts.
But authorities ultimately turned to advanced genetic testing to help them solve the mystery, and they recently figured out the murder victim was Patricia Ann Tucker, who was 28 and had a 5-year-old son when she was killed without her loved ones knowing for decades.
A district attorney’s office in Massachusetts announced at a Monday press briefing that investigators had established Tucker was the murder victim known to many simply as the “Granby girl”, a nickname drawn from the area where she was found.
According to police information cited by the local news outlet MassLive.com, someone shot Tucker in the temple and dragged her by the neck before loggers found her decomposed body buried under leaves and a stump on 15 November 1978. She was later buried in a grave marked “unknown,” where she remained, even as her case drew interest from amateur sleuths.
Meanwhile, Tucker’s son, 50-year-old Matthew Dale, told MassLive.com that grew up in North Carolina without ever being sure why his mom disappeared. He told the outlet that he has assumed since his 30s that she was dead, and he had provided his DNA to a database in case they ever found her.
His assumption that his mother was dead started to be confirmed about two years ago. A forensic laboratory helped local authorities acquire the Granby girl’s DNA profile, which eventually led them to a likely relative in Maryland, a prosecutor with the north-western Massachusetts district attorney’s office said to reporters Monday.
That relative, in turn, connected investigators with Dale. Dale told MassLive that he gave investigators a file with his digital DNA profile, and within hours they called him by phone and informed him that he was a clear genetic match with the Granby girl, who was his mother.
Detectives aren’t sure who killed Tucker, according to what prosecutors told members of the news media Monday. She was married to a man named Gerald Coleman and living with him in Connecticut before she was found murdered.
Coleman never reported his wife missing, officials said. He is of intense interest to those investigating the death of Tucker, who was also known as Patricia Heckman, Patricia Dale and Patricia Coleman. But officials were careful to stop short of calling him a murder suspect, and they noted that he died in a Massachusetts state prison in 1996.
Dale told MassLive that there were rumors in his family while he grew up that his mother had perhaps entered the federal witness protection. But he said he later came to understand that his mother “fell in with the wrong crowd”.
“She wasn’t a hiker, like some of the stories said,” Dale told MassLive. “Through the years, I’ve been told so many lies about it.”
He said his last memory of his mom was sitting in a car with her and another man whom he didn’t recognize while she told her son goodbye outside a group home for minors. The next day, Dale’s father arrived to collect him and raise him.
Dale, whose father died in 2015, said to Mass Live that he doesn’t have much from his mother. There’s one photo, some baby books she made for him, one of his hair locks and a tapestry that she painted for him.
He told MassLive that his plan now is to get a nicer marker for his mother’s grave, saying she deserves to have her name on it.
And in a statement read on his behalf at Monday’s briefing, Dale expressed his gratitude to investigators for “never giving up” on his mother after more than four decades.
“At least I have some answers,” Dale’s statement said. “It’s a lot to process, but hopefully, the closure can begin now.”
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