Families of four murdered women finally have closure nearly four decades later, when new DNA technology has revealed they were all victims of the same depraved serial killer.
Joe Michael Ervin may though he literally got away with murder since it had been five months after he stabbed a pregnant teenager to death in January 1981, and he remained free.
But that freedom was short-lived. On June 27, 1981, he was pulled over by an Aurora, Colorado police officer. The 26-year-old officer, Debra Sue Corr, had been on the job just a year when she attempted to arrest Ervin for a traffic violation. Ervin managed to overpower the officer and shoot her with her service weapon.
As Corr lay dying in the street, a member of the Aurora Police Department’s Junior Explorer program was driving by and stopped to help. Ervin then shot the 19-year-old in the back and fled the scene.
According to The Denver Post, police arrested Ervin that day at his home as he was attempting to saw Corr’s handcuffs off of his wrist. As heinous as the murder of officer Corr and his other crimes were, it took nearly 40 years to discover they were far from the extent of his killing spree. As it turned out, Ervin was a serial killer responsible for at least four other deaths of young women in the area.
Ervin never stood trial as a cop-killer. He took his own life in prison less than a week after he was arrested.
Now, four decades later, thanks to new DNA technologies, investigators know that Officer Corr was not Ervin’s first victim but his last!
Four other murders were linked to Ervin.
His first victim was killed Madeleine Furey-Livaudais, who he killed in December of 1978 at her home in northeast Denver. According to The Denver Post, 33-year-old Furey-Livaudais was feeding her children breakfast when Ervin entered her home and attacked her.
Delores Barajas was Ervin’s second and oldest victim at 53 years old. She was spending the summer with family in Colorado and working a hotel job, according to The Denver Post. She was walking to her last day of work on August 10, 1980, when Ervin attacked her.
Ervin struck again just four months later when he stabbed 27-year-old Gwendolyn Harris on Christmas Eve. Her body was found a block away from the home where Ervin lived at the time.
And, five months prior to the fateful traffic stop that took Office Corr’s life, he had murdered Antoinette Parks, a pregnant 17-year-old who was working at Denny’s. She was the only victim not killed within the Denver city limits—her death occurred several miles north of downtown.
The cases were believed to be separate instances until 2013 when DNA evidence linked the four cold cases together, according to the Associated Press, but current DNA technology at that time could only say they had been killed by the same person, but they had no way to identify the suspect.
Authorities realized the cases had a common but unknown suspect, and genetic genealogy allowed them to zero in on Ervin. The technique involves uploading a crime scene DNA profile to one or more genetic genealogy databases with the intention of identifying a criminal offender’s genetic relatives and, eventually, locating the offender within the family tree.
Once Ervin was identified, he was exhumed from his Texas grave in late 2021, and testing linked him to the killings.