TERRE HAUTE, Indiana — A western Indiana man linked to a 1979 slaying by DNA found on the victim's shirt has been convicted of murder in the woman's death and attempted murder for attacking her 2-year-old son.
A Vigo County jury convicted Richard L. Boswell Jr., 57, on Friday afternoon. The family of 20-year-old Kathy Jo Baker gasped and hugged after the verdicts were announced, The Tribune Star reported (http://bit.ly/1OU6Mjh ).
"We can finally say now that we have closure, and let the healing begin," said Baker's sister, Julie Scroggins, who planned to lay a bouquet of yellow roses on her sibling's grave.
Prosecutor Terry Modesitt said he welcomed the convictions nearly 36 years after Baker's killing.
Baker and her son vanished from their rural home in the town of Riley on May 22, 1979. The next day, Baker's body was found in a remote area with her critically injured son lying at her feet. He would spend months recovering from his injuries.
Following the verdict, Baker's widower, Kenny Baker, said the jury's decision ended decades of speculation about who killed his wife and seriously injured his son.
"When they led him out of that courtroom in them handcuffs, 36 years just disappeared," he said. "All the hurt. It's just unbelievable how good it feels to get a guilty verdict — to see the expression on his face when they declared him guilty."
He credited the Indiana State Police for reopening the cold case 31 years after the crime and thanked investigators for see the case through to a conviction.
DNA testing was not available in the late 1970s when police investigated the homicide, and no arrests were made after more than 100 people were interviewed.
But evidence from the crime was stored by state police, and it was finally tested in 2008 after police received a tip about a possible suspect in the murder. That tip turned out to be in error, but the DNA testing of a spot of blood on Baker's shirt was a match to Boswell, whose DNA was in a state database due to a prior felony conviction.
The Terre Haute man, who will be sentenced May 18, was charged in 2010. He stood trial twice in 2013, but both ended in mistrials.
During Boswell's third trial, jurors heard testimony that the chances of his DNA matching that of the blood spot were one in 40 billion.
Information from: Tribune-Star, http://www.tribstar.com