Forty years after the kidnapping and murder of 21-year-old Helene Pruszynski, her family received justice.
On Wednesday, James Clanton was sentenced to life in prison for the 1980 murder of Pruszynski, the Denver Post reports. In February, Clanton pleaded guilty to a charge of first-degree murder after deliberation. He was arrested three months earlier after investigators used “genetic genealogy” technology on DNA evidence found on Pruszynski’s body and clothing.
During Wednesday's hearing, Pruszynski's sister, Janet Pruszynski-Johnson, came face to face with her sister's killer.
"Oh how [our brother and parents] wished, hoped, dreamed of this day," Pruszynski-Johnson read from a statement in front of a Douglas County judge, according to 9News. "A day of reckoning, an arrest, a conviction, justice. I will try my best to speak for all of us."
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Pruszynski, a junior at Wheaton College in Massachusetts, was in Denver to intern at a local radio station while staying with relatives. On Jan. 16, 1980, Clanton kidnapped Pruszynski as she walked home from her bus stop after work.
The next day, Pruszynski's body was found in a field. Her hands had been tied behind her, and she had been raped and stabbed multiple times in the back, CBS Denver reports.
"He took our kind, loving, sweet Helene from us," Pruszynski-Johnson, who traveled to Colorado to read her statement in person, said. "It couldn't be true. Our family would never be the same."
At the time of Pruszynski's murder, Clanton was known as Curtis Allen White. He changed his name two years after her murder, 9News reports.
"It gives me some peace knowing that this beast is in jail," Pruszynski-Johnson said. "But I don't think we'll ever have closure, because Helene is not here."
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