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Police Thought She Had Been A Victim Of Ted Bundy, But 50 Years Later The Truth Left Them All In Shock — Rita Curran

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By Based On a True StoryPublished about a month ago 6 min read
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Rita Curran was born on June 21, 1947 in Brooklyn, New York. The daughter of Thomas and Mary Curran also had two siblings who were also called Thomas and Mary.

During her childhood the Curran family moved to Burlington, a city in Vermont where Rita studied at a private Catholic school for girls.

According to several media, the family was well known since Thomas, the father, worked in the facilities that IBM had in Burlington, not to mention that together with his wife he ran a restaurant and rental cabins near the lake.

In 1969, Rita graduated from Trinity College and began working as a second-grade teacher at Milton Elementary School. In June 1971 she enrolled at the University of Vermont to study a postgraduate degree and in order to pay for everything she accepted a part-time job as a cleaner in a motel.

At the beginning of that summer, Rita, who had just turned 24, began to savor her new independence. The young woman who had lived with her parents and siblings all her life had recently moved into an apartment that she shared with 3 other girls.

In the few weeks that Rita lived there, she didn’t have much relationship with her classmates... first because she was very shy and had a hard time making friends and second because she spent her time working, studying or with her family.

At that time he sang in a group called the Burlington barbershop. Unfortunately, on the night of July 19, after a rehearsal, someone ended his life in a brutal way and it took more than 50 years to find the identity of the killer.

The facts:

On July 19, 1971, Rita was rehearsing with her group. When it got dark, she went home and after getting comfortable, she fell asleep. At that time she was alone because her roommates had gone out for a drink at a nearby bar.

In the early morning of the 20th the girls returned to their apartment and it was there that they made a terrible discovery... Rita, who had been brutally attacked, lay on the floor of her lifeless room, so they immediately notified the police.

When Burlington’s agents arrived at the scene, the first thing they noticed was that Rita had been beaten. The coroner determined that apart from the blows, her attacker had abused her and had deprived her of air until her death. He also estimated that the crime had been committed between 11:30 and 12:30 at night.

The scene indicated that Rita had fought fiercely for her life. The officers collected several evidence from her room, including hair that the girl had held in her hands. But without a doubt the most important thing was found when lifting the young woman’s body and that is that under her elbow there was a Larks brand cigarette that was preserved for analysis.

The agents in charge of the case interviewed Rita’s roommates but did not contribute anything important. They also talked to the neighbors, specifically with a couple who lived in an apartment two floors above the victim’s. William DeRoos, the husband, who also had a criminal record, said that on the night of the events he was at home with his wife and that they had not heard or seen anything. Michelle DeRoos confirmed her husband’s version so he was discarded.

It is known that more than a hundred people were interrogated as part of the initial investigation, but not only that, they were also subjected to polygraph tests. During the first year they managed to draw up a list of suspects. based on circumstantial facts, such as strange behaviors, proximity to the crime scene, clues and others. Unfortunately, this list did not take them to the killer.

No answers at the end of 1971 the Curran family offered a reward of $3,000 for anyone who could provide reliable information for the case, but without success.

With the passage of time the case began to cool down until suddenly in 1978 the investigators put the focus on a person who at that time had already sowed panic among the population. I am referring to Ted Bundy, the famous serial killer who had already been captured.

FBI agent John Basset suggested the name of Bundy for several reasons. To begin with, the motel where Rita worked was very close to where he was born, not to mention the similarities between Curran’s crime scene and Bundy’s victims. To this it must be added that the week of the events and according to the municipal records an individual named Bundy was bitten by a dog in Burlington.

The Currans were desperate to know the truth so when they found out that Bundy could be the killer, Rita’s sister sent a telegram to the Florida death row where he was imprisoned at the time.

In response, the FBI informed them that Bundy had refused to confirm or deny his guilt. Some time later, Detective Keppel questioned Bundy, who confirmed to him that in 1971 he had ended the life of a woman in Burlington when he went there to obtain “information about her birth.”

However, on January 22, 1989, on the eve of his execution, Bundy denied his participation in Rita’s death before an FBI agent.

Discarded Bundy and without any new clues, Rita Curran’s case cooled completely.

Rita’s father died in 1991 and his mother in 2002 both without knowing who killed his daughter’s life.

New technologies:

In 2014, the Burlington Police Department decided to re-examine Rita’s case taking advantage of advances in forensic technology. The first thing they did was send the cigarette butt and the rest of the evidence found at the crime scene to a New York laboratory for analysis.

Unfortunately and despite the fact that a genetic profile was created, this did not coincide with any of those in the national system, so the researchers were once again lost.

But in 2019, detectives tried again, this time using the secret weapon of genetic genealogy to track a suspect through his family tree process that took a long time.

Although Rita’s siblings and other family members kept hope decade after decade in 2021, they gave up and assumed that they would never know the truth.

In 2022, the DNA of the cigarette butt was sent to parabon nanolabs for sequencing. The chief genetic genealogist CeCe Moore, carried out the genealogical research for Rita’s case. To do this, he used the list of suspects developed over the last 5 decades and to which the agents of unresolved cases added new names.

Finally, in February 2023, the Burlington police announced during a press conference that they had found the culprit of Rita’s death. The DNA of the butt revealed that it was William DeRoos, the neighbor they interrogated in 1971 and that he lived with his wife Michelle.

As they revealed on the night of the murder, the couple had had a fight and William went for a walk to get some air. It is believed that at some point during this ‘walk William took out his frustration with his neighbor and killed her in a brutal way.

The next morning, the police knocked on the door of the DeRoos to ask if they had seen or heard anything, but William hurried to say no. When he got rid of them, he told Michelle not to mention that he had gone out that night and to say that he had been at home with her all the time.

The agents confirmed that the marriage was divorced shortly after and are convinced that Michelle did not know anything about the role her husband played in Rita’s death.

Once divorced, William DeRoos moved to Thailand and became a monk. But it seems that his renewed sense of virtue did not last long, because he returned to San Francisco and in 1986 he died in a hotel room after excessive consumption of substances.

Lieutenant Jim Trieb told the journalists at the press conference the following:

“We are all confident that William DeRoos is responsible for the aggravating murder of Rita Curran.”

They weren’t going to bring Rita Curran back, but at least they could achieve a closure,” added former Senator Leahy.”

Before the conference, the detectives contacted Thomas and Mary, Rita’s brothers, to give them the news and get to know the whole story. Finally and after decades of waiting they were able to obtain a closure and above all the peace they deserved.

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About the Creator

Based On a True Story

Hi everyone! My name is Marta and every week I write about true crime, always with an educational purpose.

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