BEDFORD, Texas — Bedford Police announced Monday that detectives had solved a homicide case from more than 30 years ago in large part because of modern technology that wasn't available at the time.
Last month, detectives identified Ray Anthony Chapa as the person who sexually assaulted and killed Bedford's Janet Love in her apartment in 1986 after decades of investigating, according to Bedford Police.
Investigators have been using DNA technology and systems to find and identify Chapa with Bedford Police Chief Jeff Williams saying "we are 100 percent sure this is the person who committed this terrible crime."
On April 24, 1986, Janet Love was found dead in her apartment off of L Don Dodson Dr. by two co-workers after she did not show up for work as a ticket agent for Delta Airlines.
During the investigation, police determined an unknown person had entered the 32-year-old woman's apartment and sexually assaulted her before shooting and killing her before leaving.
Investigators followed up on many leads for decades, but they weren't able to identify a suspect.
A DNA profile was collected from the scene, eventually processed and later entered into the FBI Combined DNA Index System, when the database was created in 1998. This system links unknown DNA left during the time of a crime to offenders who are legally required to provide samples for the database, according to the FBI.
As police continued to investigate the case and follow up on leads, the suspect’s DNA profile never matched with another crime or offender entered into the FBI's system.
Toward the end of 2020, Bedford Police learned about a Texas Department of Public Safety grant called the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Project. The grant uses funds from the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct a similar process as what the FBI Combined DNA Index System provides with more of a specific focus. The Texas project uses forensic genetic genealogy testing of DNA samples from unknown offenders who are linked to sexual assaults and sexually related homicides.
With the help of a genealogist and public records, detectives used the DNA profile to put together a family tree of the suspect. This gave investigators a name, so they requested the help of two family members to confirm the man's identity through a kinship analysis conducted by the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification.
In September, Bedford Police identified Chapa as the person who sexually assaulted and killed Love. Chapa lived less than 1,000 feet from Love in a neighboring apartment complex at the time of the homicide, police say.
When the crime happened in 1986, using DNA to solve crimes was still in its early stages. Police departments did not regularly share information with other law enforcement agencies at the time because of lack of centralized databases and the challenge of communicating without email or other forms of more modern technology.
In January 2021, Chapa died from a terminal illness.
Detectives are currently working with the FBI to look at other possible offenses he could be connected to across the country in case other crimes can be solved. In addition to the North Texas area, police say Chapa also lived in Chicago and Montana.
“Chapa had no known ties to the victim and was never considered a suspect until DNA technology revealed the truth,” Williams said. “I am so grateful for all the detectives’ hard work and finally being able to bring closure to Janet’s family. They’ve had to wait 35 years for this day.”
Before investigators released this information, Bedford Police Department members met with the families of Love and Chapa. Both families have asked for privacy.
“The search never stopped,” Bedford Sgt. Brett Bowen said, who was one of the detectives on the Love case when it was cleared. “It wasn’t unsolved because of lack of effort; we just needed science and technology to catch up to be able to put the final pieces together.”
Investigators believe Chapa may be connected to additional crimes. If you have any additional information related to Chapa, Bedford Police ask you to call the department at 817-952-2272.