Authorities on Monday revealed the identity of a 28-year-old woman found shot to death in Granby more than four decades ago and said that her husband at the time, who died in a Massachusetts prison in 1996, is a person of interest in the slaying.
At a news conference, First Assistant Northwestern District Attorney Steven Gagne said the woman whose body was discovered on Nov. 15, 1978, was named Patricia Ann Tucker. Her husband at the time of her disappearance, Gerald Coleman, was convicted in 1995 of rape in a separate case, Gagne said.
Investigators identified Tucker through genetic genealogy, which has led to a growing number of breakthroughs in cold cases across the country. Twenty years after her death, members of the community had placed a headstone for her in a local cemetery that read, “Unknown, Nov. 15, 1978. In God’s care.”
Gagne said Coleman, who had also been arrested in Hartford in 1968 on kidnapping, assault, and firearm charges, never reported his wife missing. He remains “certainly, at a minimum, a person of strong interest in Patricia’s disappearance and death,” Gagne said.
Gagne read a statement from Tucker’s son, Matthew Dale, who attended the briefing with relatives but did not speak to reporters.
“I would like to say thank you to everyone [for] trying to identify my mother and wrapping your arms around her, especially the community of Granby,” Dale wrote. “Thank you for never giving up on her. At least I have some answers now after 44 years. It’s a lot to process, but hopefully the closure can begin now.”
Gagne said Tucker’s “skeletonized and clothed” remains were found near a logging road off Amherst Street in Granby, a small town outside of Springfield. At the time, the medical examiner determined the victim was a female, probably between the ages of 19 and 27, and that she was killed by a bullet wound to her left temple, Gagne said.
The medical examiner estimated the remains had been left in the area for several months, he said. Granby and State Police launched an “extensive investigation” to identify her and her killer, Gagne said, but to no avail.
A break in the case came last March, when authorities sent a biological sample from the victim to a private lab in Texas, called Othram. The lab used forensic genetic genealogy to identify a relative in Maryland.
On Jan. 30, investigators spoke with that woman, who said her aunt, later identified as Tucker, went missing in the 1970s, Gagne said. They also spoke with Dale, who said his mother disappeared in 1978. Dale’s DNA profile was a complete match to Tucker’s, officials said.
At the time of her death, Tucker went by the name Patricia Coleman, Gagne said. She was born Patricia Ann Tucker and later used the married names of Patricia Heckman and Patricia Dale.
Tucker married Coleman in November 1977 and the couple bought a house in East Hampton, Conn., in April 1978.
Foreclosure proceedings on the property began in late 1978 and were completed a couple of months later, Gagne said.
Dale told investigators that around the time of Tucker’s disappearance, Coleman had dropped him off at a home in Massachusetts. Dale never saw his mother or Coleman again, Gagne said.
He said records from the Department of Children and Families indicate Dale was left with a woman who lived in Chicopee; that woman had indicated that Coleman asked her to watch Dale for a few hours while he and Tucker took care of personal business, records show.
After a few days, the woman contacted authorities and Dale was reunited with his biological father, Gagne said.
“While it’s satisfying to finally know who [the] ‘Granby Girl’ actually was, the investigation won’t stop until we identify her killer and bring the family an additional measure of closure and justice,” Gagne said in a statement.
Northwestern District Attorney David E. Sullivan said in a statement that unsolved cases “sometimes seem to go cold, but investigators never give up.”
“The Massachusetts State Police, Granby Police, and Northwestern District Attorney’s staff worked collaboratively for years to achieve this breakthrough in the investigation, and — most importantly — provide some answers to the victim’s family,” Sullivan said.
Anyone with information about the case is asked to call Granby police at 413-467-9222 or e-mail Detective James White at email@example.com.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.