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Roderick Elias charged with 1980 murder of Kristen Kay Swanson: Another cold case heats up

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Another day, another cold case belatedly moved forward by DNA.

Yesterday, we told you about Kevin LeWayne McKinney, who's been charged in the 1998 murder of Diane Caldwell. Today, it's Roderick Elias, formally accused of murdering 22-year-old Kristen Kay Swanson in 1980 -- so long ago that she'd waitressed at a disco club the night before her slaying. But DNA evidence survived, leading to Elias' arrest in Topeka, Kansas on Tuesday.

Get details from the Denver Police Department and the Denver District Attorney's Office below:

Denver Police Department release:

On October 28, 1980, members of the Denver Police Department responded to the 3800 block alley between Oneida and Olive on a report of a body in a vehicle. Upon arrival, officers located the victim, later identified as Kristen Kay Swanson, (22 years of age) lying across the front seat of a 1968 Chevy Malibu. The Coroner's Office removed the victim to the morgue where they discovered she had a single stab wound to the chest. The victim worked at a disco club called Summerfield's located at 3737 Quebec Street the night prior to her discovery.

As part of the Cold Case Project, investigators reviewed this investigation in March of 2009. As a result of this additional investigation and the utilization of new technologies, investigators identified Roderick Elias, 9/16/1956 as a suspect in the case in January of 2010.

On March 30, 2010, authorities in Topeka, KS arrested Mr. Elias for investigation of Murder in the First Degree on a warrant obtained by Denver investigators. Detectives will next present this case to the Denver District Attorney for consideration of formal charges and the issuance of an At-Large filing.

Denver District Attorney's Office release:


Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey has formally charged a man yesterday who is accused of murdering a young woman in October 1980. The charges are the result of work by Denver's Cold Case Review Project and the Denver Police Department Crime Lab.

Charges were filed yesterday as a necessary step in the extradition process. Roderick Elias, 53, is charged with first-degree murder after deliberation and first-degree felony murder.

On Oct. 28, 1980, the Denver Police Department responded to the 3800 block alley between Oneida and Olive streets where the body of a woman was found in a car. The victim was later identified as 22-year-old Kristen Swanson; the coroner determined that she had died from a single stab wound to the heart.

The charges allege that Elias sexually assaulted and then murdered Swanson in the early morning hours of Oct. 28, 1980. A man matching Elias's description had been seen leaning into the car just outside of the disco club Summerfield's, where Swanson worked, the night before she was murdered.

The case remained unsolved until Morrissey requested a Cold Case review at the urging of a friend of the victim. A DNA profile was obtained by additional testing of several pieces of evidence in the case and the Cold Case Review Team was notified of a match that helped lead to the identification and arrest of Elias. He was taken into custody earlier yesterday in Topeka, Kansas.

Court dates will be scheduled following the extradition process.

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