NATIONAL NEWS

Police say DNA technology has identified the killer in the unsolved death of a woman in 1981

Jul 20, 2023, 1:03 PM | Updated: 2:16 pm

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — More than four decades after a young New Hampshire woman was killed, law enforcement officials have solved the crime through DNA analysis and the use of forensic genealogy technology, the state attorney general said Thursday.

But solving the case doesn’t bring with it the satisfaction of seeing justice: The man responsible for killing 23-year-old Laura Kempton died from an overdose in 2005, Attorney General John Formella said.

Formella told reporters at a news conference in Portsmouth, where the killing took place in September 1981, that the investigators’ conclusion was “bittersweet” but underscored their resolve.

The conclusion of the investigation after so many years should “send a message to anyone who has been affected by a case that has gone cold in this state that we will never stop working these cases,” he said. “We will never forget about these victims.”

A police officer found Kempton dead in her apartment after attempting to serve a court summons for parking meter violations. An electrical cord was tied around her ankles, and a phone cord was around her neck and shoulder area. Blood was on a rug underneath her head, and an autopsy concluded that she died from head trauma.

Kempton, a Portsmouth Beauty School student who worked at a gift shop and ice cream parlor, was last seen earlier that morning, returning alone to her apartment after a night out with a friend, police said.

Evidence collected at the scene, including a cigarette butt, a pillow and a glass bottle, revealed a male DNA profile years later.

For the next four decades, investigators pursued many leads and potential suspects, but without success. Last year, the Portsmouth Police Department and cold case unit worked with New Hampshire and Maine’s forensic laboratories and a forensic genetic genealogy firm to identify the person believed to be responsible for Kempton’s death. A DNA profile was a confirmed match to another in a public genealogy database.

The man believed to be responsible was Ronney James Lee, who was working as a security officer in 1981, Formella said. Members of Lee’s family were briefed on the investigation’s conclusion. Investigators declined to release their names to reporters.

The Associated Press attempted to reach several people believed to have been associated with Lee, but messages were not immediately returned.

There was no known relationship between Kempton and Lee, who was 21 at the time. Lee, who died at 45 in February 2005 from a cocaine overdose, would have been charged with murder if he were still alive, Formella said.

The Kempton family expressed gratitude to the Portsmouth Police Department. “Their diligence and determination, along with extraordinary personal commitment over the past decades, have led to this moment for Laura,” the family said in a statement.

National News

Associated Press

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile flips onto its side after crash along suburban Chicago highway

OAK BROOK, Ill. (AP) — One of Oscar Mayer’s hot dog-shaped Wienermobiles ended up flipped onto its side after crashing on a suburban Chicago highway, police said. The Wienermobile hit a car Monday morning along Interstate 294 and its driver lost control and overcorrected, causing it to roll onto its side near the Chicago suburb […]

12 minutes ago

FILE - Rain soaked memorials for those who died in a mass shooting sit along the roadside by Scheme...

Associated Press

3 Army Reserve officers disciplined after reservist killed 18 people last October in Maine

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Three Army Reserve officers were disciplined for dereliction of duty in the aftermath of a rampage in which a reservist killed 18 people in Maine, according to an Army report that cited communication failures within the chain of command, and between military and civilian hospitals, among other shortcomings revealed during an […]

45 minutes ago

Associated Press

2024 Election Latest: Harris has secured enough support to earn party’s nomination, AP survey finds

Vice President Kamala Harris had a busy 24 hours after being endorsed as the Democratic presidential candidate by President Joe Biden. She has secured enough delegates to earn the party’s nomination and raised more than $81 million, a record sum for the 2024 political cycle. Meanwhile, The Secret Service director testified before a congressional committee […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

2 killed when small plane crashes after takeoff from Long Island airport

RONKONKOMA, N.Y. (AP) — A small plane crashed shortly after takeoff on New York’s Long Island, killing both people who were on board, authorities said. The single-engine Beechcraft Bonanza A36 took off from MacArthur Airport in Ronkonkoma at about 6:15 p.m. Monday and crashed after the pilot tried to return to the runway, Suffolk County […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

Kamala Harris is preparing to lead Democrats in 2024. There are lessons from her 2020 bid

ATLANTA (AP) — Kamala Harris was greeted by a massive, cheering crowd during the first rally of her newly announced presidential campaign in 2019. Speaking on a late January day outside city hall in her hometown of Oakland, California, she framed her bid as part of something bigger than simply winning an election. “We are […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Unsold 2024 Escalade utility vehicles sit in a row outside a Cadillac dealership on June 2, ...

Associated Press

With US vehicle prices averaging near $50K, General Motors sees 2nd-quarter profits rise 15%

DETROIT (AP) — U.S. customers who bought a new General Motors vehicle last quarter paid an average of just under $49,900, a price that helped push the company’s net income 15% above a year ago. And GM Chief Financial Officer Paul Jacobson said he doesn’t see his company cutting prices very much, despite industry analysts’ […]

4 hours ago

Police say DNA technology has identified the killer in the unsolved death of a woman in 1981