DNA Breakthrough: 33-Year-Old Cold Case Murder in California Finally Solved

Ventura, California – After 33 years, closure finally comes to a family as authorities use DNA and forensic evidence to identify the killer of 42-year-old Danielle Clause. Clause’s remains were discovered on July 16, 1991, in downtown Ventura, with signs of multiple blunt force injuries and sexual assault. The case was initially investigated, but as leads ran dry, it was suspended and considered cold for over 25 years.

Retired Lt. Douglas Auldridge, who worked on the case, emphasized the meticulous collection of evidence, including fingerprints, cigarette butts, and various items from the crime scene. Despite numerous leads pursued at the time, the case remained unsolved until officer Tyler Buck decided to reexamine it in 2021. Through advanced forensic techniques, investigators were able to create a family tree of the suspect, ultimately identifying Larry Devon Welch as Clause’s killer, who had passed away in 1999.

The investigation took a significant turn when Forensic Specialist Gabrielle Wimer initiated the testing of previously unexamined evidence, such as the murder weapon and the victim’s fingernail clippings. Through a collaborative effort with various agencies and the use of ancestral genealogy databases, a breakthrough occurred in July 2022, when a first cousin of the suspect provided a DNA sample that matched the unknown perpetrator.

To confirm Welch as the suspect, investigators obtained DNA samples from his living brother, ruling him out as the perpetrator. The detailed analysis revealed various factors connecting Welch to the crime, including owning a white Ford Ranger and his presence near the crime scene at the time of the murder. Despite the tragic circumstances surrounding Clause’s death, her sister, Marcie Forte, expressed gratitude for finally knowing the truth after years of uncertainty and loss.

The resolution of this cold case underscores the persistence and advancements in forensic technology that can bring closure to families and justice to victims even after decades have passed. As the investigation concludes, the community reflects on Danielle Clause’s life, remembering her as more than just a victim of a heinous crime but as a cherished individual with a lasting impact on those who knew her.