DAYTON — An over 30-year cold case murder could be on the verge of being solved, thanks to new evidence recently brought forth and new technology.
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Brenda Gaddis was 33-years-old when her body was found naked and beaten in an isolated area southwest of Dayton in 1990. Gaddis’ body was found by two people searching for cans off the side of Guthrie Road December 12, 1990.
In the years since her death, no arrests or charges were ever filed.
“I believe she was basically dumped here, but I really believe the homicide occurred somewhere else,” retired Dayton police homicide Detective Doyle Burke told News Center 7′s Cheryl McHenry.
Burke was one of the detectives that investigated Gaddis’ murder after her body was found. Her family hadn’t seen her since Thanksgiving and had reported her missing before her body was found.
“She had several blunt force injuries, so basically beaten to death,” Boyle said.
Police were not able to pinpoint her killer, but some new evidence has investigators hopeful they’ll be able to find the person responsible.
“We were fortunate enough that an individual did come to the cold case unit just a few months ago and provided information as to a location where this occurred and a potential suspect,” Burke said.
Outwardly, Brenda Gaddis lived a normal life. She had three children and worked at the Hoover bowling alley. But her life took a troubling turn that made her murder a tough case to crack.
“She had a drug addiction. Of course, that drove her into sometimes prostitution and that, of course, leads us to have a problem in solving these cases because you’re leading a high-risk lifestyle and you’re interacting with total strangers,” Burke said.
However, Brenda’s body yielded a valuable clue – DNA from fingernail scrapings.
“When you have DNA from an unknown male underneath your fingernails, you’re fighting for your life. So we’re confident this is probably our suspect’s DNA,” Burke said.
Burke added the potential suspect could still be living in the area, but cautioned it could be months before a crime lab determines the suspect’s DNA matches that recovered off Gaddis’ body.
However if the DNA matches, it could help police solve not only Gaddis’ murder, but the murders of other women during the same timeframe that had similar lifestyles, according to Dayton police Maj. Brian Johns.
“The 80s and early 90s, we had other cases, sadly, like Miss Gaddis, right, where in Dayton they were found dead along the side of the road. But we’re actually looking at all those cases. Maybe if we find out who killed Miss Gaddis, we find out who killed some of the other ones in Dayton as well,” Johns said.
Dayton police have recently expanded the Cold Case Unit, assigning three full-time detectives and bringing back four retired detectives who are volunteering their time and expertise. Johns said committing resources to solving unsolved murders and sexual assaults remains a priority for the department.
“We have cases dating back 70, 80 years and they’re like, ‘Why do you go back that far on these things?’ Everybody is important. Every victim is important,” Johns said.
Gaddis’ murder was one of over 800 Burke investigated as a Dayton homicide detective. While most of those cases were solved, Burke said the possibility of bringing justice to even one more victim and their family was reward enough to return and serve on the Cold Case Unit.
“Like I told my wife, how do you say no? I did this for 29 years in Dayton. Dayton was always good to me. They asked and I was honored to be asked and I’ll do the best I can,” Burke said.
Many cases for Dayton police are solved through DNA, but Johns said even more are solved when people who know something say something.
If you have details that can help police in this investigation, or another unsolved murder investigation, you’re asked to call this Dayton police hotline at 937-333-7109, or Miami Valley Crime Stoppers at 937-222-STOP.
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