Denver police name Joe Michael Ervin as serial killer suspect in 4 cold cases through DNA evidence

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The Denver Police Department on Friday named deceased Joe Michael Ervin as a murder suspect linked to four cold cases dating back to the 1970s, according to local reports.

Four Colorado women — Madeleine Furey-Livaudais, Delores Barajas, Gwendolyn Harris and Antoinette Parks — were killed between 1978 and 1980, though the suspect was not identified until Friday after DNA testing linked Ervin, who is now deceased, to all four cases.

“When the lives of our community members are tragically taken, we are committed to doing everything possible to identify and arrest the person responsible,” Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen said in a Friday statement. “While we recognize that identifying the suspect will not bring these ladies back, we hope it provides closure and healing for their loved ones and the Denver community.”

Joe Michael Ervin in the 1970s for arrest unrelated to murders (Denver PD)

Joe Michael Ervin in the 1970s for arrest unrelated to murders (Denver PD)

Furey-Livaudais was the first victim killed in December 1978, when she was a 33-year-old mother of two. An unknown man came to her door, confronted her and then stabbed her to death, according to a press release.

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“Madeleine grew up in central Florida, one of five sisters, and was an avid swimmer, continuing to swim throughout her life. She attended high school in Florida and graduated from Tulane University. Prior to getting married, she led an adventurous life, traveling to Africa and Europe as part of her work as an editor on the beloved children’s magazine, Ranger Rick,” her family said in a statement.

Their statement continued: “Her greatest joys in life came after the birth of her two daughters, whom she cherished beyond anything. She was a loving wife and mother of two at the time of her death. The Livaudais and Furey families are grateful for receiving answers after all these years and express their gratitude for the continued work put in by all the individuals who ever worked to solve this case.”

Madelein Furey-Livaudais (Denver PD)

Madelein Furey-Livaudais (Denver PD)

Barajas was killed in August 1980, when she was a 53-year-old wife, mother and grandmother. She was attacked and fatally stabbed while walking to work.

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Barajas was visiting family in Denver that summer and working at a hotel downtown. The Sunday she was killed was supposed to be her last day of work before she returned home, according to her family, who expressed appreciation for all those who helped solve the case, according to the press release.

Harris was found stabbed to death in December 1980, when she was a 27-year-old mother. Harris was last seen at a lounge in downtown Denver about a block away from Ervin’s residence.

Gwendolyn Harris (Denver PD)

Gwendolyn Harris (Denver PD)

“Because of the decision of another to take life with no regard, the 1980 murder of Gwendolyn Harris was devastating and unimaginable to the family. Gwen will forever be in our hearts and always our JOY,” Harris’ family said in a statement. They described Harris as a bright, soft-spoken and athletic woman.

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In January 1981, Evin allegedly killed a 17-year-old girl named Antoinette Parks when she was six-to-seven months pregnant. Parks was found stabbed to death in Adams County.

Parks was the youngest of six and a high school student in Aurora. She loved music, and her family described her as “caring, determined and loved children.” Her family said Parks likely would have gone on to work in childcare or education as an adult and was excited to have children of her own one day. 

Antoinette Parks (Denver PD)

Antoinette Parks (Denver PD)

Ervin was also apprehended for the June 1981 murder of Aurora Police Officer Debra Sue Corr. The officer contacted Ervin about a traffic violation while on patrol and attempted to handcuff him. Ervin took Corr’s weapon and fatally shot her. He also shot Aurora Police Explorer Scout Glen Spies in the back when Spies witnessed the incident and tried to intervene. Ervin was later apprehended at his home.

While in custody in July 1981, Ervin committed suicide. 

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The Denver Police Crime Laboratory linked the four cold cases using DNA evidence between 2013 and 2018. After conducting a familial search, the crime laboratory identified Ervin and exhumed his remains in Texas for a direct DNA comparison to the crime scene evidence.

“In some cold cases, the passage of years and decades makes solving cases more difficult, but where DNA evidence exists, the evolution of science and technology has made it possible to identify perpetrators, seek justice for victims and provide answers to victims’ loved ones,” Dr. Greggory LaBerge, director of the Denver Police Forensics and Evidence Division, said.

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