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'We can finally have peace': DNA links man to 4 homicides dating back decades

Michael Ervin died in 1981. His body was exhumed in 2021 so that investigators could obtain DNA and it was a match to the four cases, according to investigators.

DENVER — A man who took his life while jailed in connection with the 1981 killing of an Aurora Police officer was named Friday as the sole suspect in four homicides dating back more than four decades.

Representatives of the Denver Police Department (DPD) and the Adams County Sheriff's Office (ACSO) identified the suspect as Michael Ervin after DNA linked him to four women who were fatally stabbed between December 1978 and January 1981.

The victims were identified as:

  • Madeleine Furey-Livaudais, 33
  • Dolores Barajas, 53
  • Gwendolyn Harris, 27
  • Antoinette Parks, 17

>Video below: Full news conference announcing suspect in Denver and Adams County cold case homicides.

"We can finally have peace knowing who did this to my little sister," said George Journey, an older brother of Parks. "I wish my sisters and my mom could all be here to see this, unfortunately, they didn't live long enough to see this but I know they're here with us in spirit." 

Credit: KUSA

In 1981, Ervin died by suicide while in the Adams County Detention Center after being arrested in connection with the killing of Aurora Police Officer Debra Sue Corr in June of that year.

"We found out that this man murdered four more women, assaulted an uncounted number of others," said Molly Livaudais, a daughter of Furey-Livaudais. "In addition, to learn about the line of duty death of officer Debra Sue Corr has been personally very impactful. She was out doing her job when she attempted to arrest this serial killer for an unrelated crime and in the course of his arrest she was murdered herself. But with her sacrifice, she prevented him from killing anyone else. And it's clear he wasn't going to stop on his own."

Three of the victims were killed within the Denver city limits, and the fourth victim was killed in Adams County. Initially, each of the killings was investigated separately, officials said on Friday. It wasn't until 2013, thanks to advances in technology, that some of those cases were tied together by DNA. Finally, in 2018, all four cases were linked through DNA.

Using that DNA, DPD began utilizing genetic genealogy, leading them to potential relatives of Ervin in Texas in 2019. In the summer of 2021, DPD said they identified a close biological relative of the still-unidentified suspect. Armed with that information, they honed in on Ervin as a potential suspect and requested a search warrant to exhume his body to obtain DNA. 

In late 2021, the request was granted, and Ervin's body was exhumed in Texas, where he was buried. This month, Ervin was confirmed as a suspect in the four homicides based on the DNA analysis, DPD said Friday.

Madeleine Furey-Livaudais

Credit: DPD
Madeleine Furey-Livaudais

Furey-Livaudais, a 33-year-old mother of two, was the first of the four victims. On Dec. 7, 1978, a then-unknown man came to the door of her northeast Denver home and confronted her, DPD said. He then forced his way inside and stabbed her to death.

Molly and Ariel Livaudais, her daughters, spoke during Friday's announcement.

"She was a young woman with a very bright future. She was a writer...she was an ecologist with a passion for the natural world. She was a loving wife, sister, daughter, mother to very young girls," said Molly Livaudais.

Molly said on that day in 1978, her mother's bright future was ripped away from her. 

"Tragically we didn't get to grow up with her and to hear her stories and witness the contributions she could have made to the world," she said. 

Dolores Barajas

Credit: DPD
Dolores Barajas

Dolores Barajas, 53, was attacked and fatally stabbed while walking to work and was found lying in the road near Pearl Street and East 17th Avenue in Denver on Aug. 10, 1980.

Her family requested privacy as they "process the emotions brought on by the closures of the case." They also expressed appreciation for their determination in solving the case.

According to her family, she was in Denver that summer visiting family and working at a Denver hotel, and the Sunday she was killed was supposed to be her last day of work before she returned to her home state.

They said she was a wife, mother, grandmother and part of a "loving family."

Gwendolyn Harris

Credit: DPD
Gwendolyn Harris

Gwendolyn Harris, 27, was found stabbed to death near the corner of E. 47th and Andrews Drive in Denver on Dec. 24, 1980. DPD said once Ervin was identified as a suspect; they discovered that Harris's body was found within a block of Ervin's residence at the time.

Harris was last seen the night before at Polo Club Lounge, which at the time was located near the intersections of 15th and Tremont streets in Denver.

According to her family, Harris was a "bright, soft-spoken, athletic young woman" who always had a smile on her face.

"Because of the decision of another to take life with no regard, the 1980 murder of Gwendolyn Harris was devastating and unimaginable to her family. Gwen will forever be in our hearts and always our JOY," the family wrote in a statement shared by DPD.

Antoinette Parks

Credit: DPD
Antoinette Parks

Antoinette Parks, 17, was six to seven months pregnant when she was found stabbed to death in the area of 64th and Broadway in Adams County.

She attended Gateway High School in Aurora and was the youngest of six children. Her brothers said she loved to sing and listen to music.

Only two of her siblings are still alive, and they both spoke Friday about getting closure in the case.

"First of all, I'd like to say this has taken a long time," George Journey said. "We can finally have peace knowing who did this to my little sister."

His brother Carl echoed those statements and said they were both very thankful for the dedication to finding their sister's killer.

"Like my brother said it's been a long time, and now we can actually really rest better at night," he said. "Thank you guys. Every last one of you for everything. Anybody who had anything to do with this, believe me, thank you."

Credit: KUSA

RELATED: It's been 38 years since the first Aurora officer died in the line of duty

Debra Sue Corr

Credit: Courtesy Aurora Police Department

Debra Sue Corr was patrolling alone when she pulled a man, later identified as Ervin, near East Colfax Avenue and Moline Street in Aurora on June 17, 1981.

When she tried to arrest him, he broke free, grabbed Corr's weapon and shot her. After Corr was shot, a passerby — Aurora Explorer Scout Glenn Spies — tried to help. Spies, too, was shot. He suffered a wound to the back but survived his injuries. 

Ervin was later arrested in his home as he tried to saw the handcuffs off, according to APD.

"She [Corr] stopped him. The police stopped him back in 1981," said Molly Livaudais. " And for that, for officer Corr's sacrifice of her life, we are thankful."

RELATED: Conifer man arrested in 1978 cold case homicide of 15-year-old girl

RELATED: Judge declares mistrial for man charged in 1984 Lakewood killing

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