COBB COUNTY, Ga. — The Cobb County district attorney is bringing closure to an over 50-year-old cold case that involves a nine-year-old girl who was abducted, sexually assaulted, and killed.
11Alive most recently followed the Debbie Lynn Randall case back in 2018, sitting down with the girl’s father. The apartment complex where Randall lived has since been replaced with a Cobb County bus station and most elements of the crime scene are gone. That's why 11Alive hired a graphic artist to recreate the moments leading up to her disappearance and the search to find her killer.
Randall was taken from Marietta in January 1972. Her body was two weeks later near Windy Hill and Powers Ferry Road after more than 4,000 people had come out to search.
During a press conference on Monday, authorities announced that they had identified William B. Rose of Mableton as the suspect in the case.
They add that Rose was 24 years old at the time of the killing, but died from suicide two years later in 1974.
Investigators said what ultimately helped them in their investigation was a piece of cloth found on Randall’s body, which had been preserved by Marietta Police.
"They collected the evidence and processed the scene meticulously. The preservation of that evidence was instrumental in solving the case," said Ron Alter, the head of Cobb's cold case unit.
Authorities were able to use the item to gather DNA evidence, something not possible in 1972, and then turn to genetic genealogy to narrow in on a suspect.
DA Flynn Broady says several family members had participated in a public DNA database to help people identify others in their family tree. They later gave permission for police to exhume Rose's body to confirm the match.
"The answer we are providing today won't bring her back. We can't extract justice from the perpetrator, but I know he must answer to a higher power," said Broady.
Authorities explained that, to their knowledge, Rose and Randall did not know each other well. However, they explained that Rose did have family that lived in the same complex as Randall and children were often seen playing outside on a nearby playground, indicating it was certainly possible the killer saw his victim sometime prior.
"Technology does not get old, it does not retire, it does not get sick. And it doesn't quit. Technology was seeking William Rose and it found him in the grave," said Morris Nix, a retired detective with the Cobb County Sheriff's Office who also helped work with the cold case unit to find the killer.
While the girl’s parents died before the case could be solved, Randall’s brother, Melvin, was in attendance. He says he forgives Rose and empathizes with his family as they now come to terms with the truth.
"For a long time, I blamed myself and so forth because I was the big brother. And I battled with it for a while and then I realized there was nothing I could have done," said Melvin Randall, who was 10 years old when his sister disappeared.
“My family appreciates everything they’ve done,” Melvin said in regard to investigators’ tireless push for answers. “I would like to say, I wish my mother was here. I know she knows in heaven now that it’s finally over.”