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| Crime |

How Vanilla Coke Led to David Anderson's Murder Bust

A mug shot of David Anderson and a photo of the late Sylvia Quayle.EXPAND
A mug shot of David Anderson and a photo of the late Sylvia Quayle.
18th Judicial District DA's office
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After reporting on the still-unsolved February 17, 2007, murder of marijuana activist Ken Gorman, we looked at the rarity of arrests in homicide cold cases — those that happened at least three years earlier. In the February 23 post, we noted that since 1970, the Denver Police Department had closed just nineteen such investigations, while 748 remain open.

Two days later, the Cherry Hills Village Police Department announced a breakthrough in one of its own decades-old investigations — the 1981 murder of Sylvia Quayle. And the specifics of the events that led to the arrest of 62-year-old David Anderson underscore how difficult it is to capture a suspect so long after the fact.

Turns out the key to Anderson being cuffed in Nebraska earlier this month was a Vanilla Coke can plucked from his garbage.

Quayle, 35, was found murdered in her Cherry Hills home on August 4, 1981. She was nude and had been strangled, stabbed and shot.

From there, progress in the inquiry was made at an agonizingly slow pace. As noted in a February 25 press conference about the Anderson bust, investigators collected 140 pieces of evidence, and two years later, testing of an area rug revealed so-called "foreign material" of the sort that might offer opportunities for DNA testing. But it took until 1995 for the rug to be sent to the Colorado Bureau of Investigations for analysis, and another five years after that for a DNA profile to be developed.

Here's a video of the press conference:

Not much more happened until recent years, when the Cherry Hills Police contracted with a company called United Data Connect, overseen by former Denver district attorney Mitch Morrissey; we profiled Morrissey and UDC in 2019.

Extensive efforts to connect the profile with individuals listed in DNA databases followed, with Anderson finally identified as the most likely suspect. But confirmation didn't come until after cops nabbed the Vanilla Coke can from Anderson's trash on January 18. Eleven days later, on January 29, DNA results confirmed their suspicions.

On February 10, thanks to the efforts of Nebraska's Dawson County Sheriff's Office and the Cozad Police Department, Anderson was arrested. He's currently being held on a first-degree murder warrant and is awaiting extradition to Colorado. No court date will be set until he arrives at what's expected to be his new home for the foreseeable future: the Arapahoe County Detention Center.

"I am proud to be able to tell Sylvia’s sister and brother-in-law that the men and women of our department have anticipated the opportunity to make this announcement for almost forty years," Cherry Hills Village Police Chief Michelle Tovrea said at the February 25 announcement. "My thoughts are with the family. We can only try to understand the deep pain and sense of loss you have experienced. I am pleased there is a path moving forward to seek justice in her death."

Anderson's arrest made news across the country, for the saddest of reasons: The resolution of a cold case is very rare.

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