Maryland high school slaying solved 52 years later

More than half a century after Maryland high school student Pamela Conyers was found strangled to death after she disappeared from a local mall, law enforcement officials announced Friday that they have finally solved the case.

But the suspect, Forrest Clyde Williams III — whom detectives identified using DNA technology and genetic research — died in 2018 of natural causes. Officials have not linked it to other unsolved crimes, leaving many unanswered questions for residents of the tight-knit suburban community outside Baltimore.

The night of Conyers’ disappearance, the 16-year-old attended a high school pep rally and then drove to the mall. Her parents reported her missing when she never returned from doing chores. Four days later, authorities discovered his body in a wooded area, not far from the family car he had been driving.

There was no evidence to suggest Conyers knew his accused killer, Anne Arundel County police officials said at a news conference Friday. They also said they have not ruled out the possibility that another suspect was involved, meaning the case is not yet considered closed.


Federal and local officials praised detectives for pursuing a decades-long quest for justice in the case

“We are pleased to bring a measure of justice for Pamela Conyers and her loved ones,” said FBI agent Tom Sobocinski. “Cases can cool down, investigators can change, but this proves that for law enforcement, victims are never forgotten.”

Detectives used DNA analysis and a process called investigative genetic genealogy, which did not exist when Conyers was killed in 1970, Sobocinski said.

When investigators collected evidence from the 1970 crime scene, they had no idea how it might be used later. But cold case detectives recently developed a DNA profile that they compared to information available in publicly accessible genealogical databases, officials said. That allowed them to identify potential relatives of the suspect, create a family tree and ultimately identify Williams. He declined to specify which relatives brought them to Williams or to describe the process in detail.

But Sobocinski said the case demonstrates how evolving technology allows law enforcement to solve cold cases, a process that “gave hope where there had been none before.”

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Such genealogical investigations have revolutionized cold case investigations across the country in recent years, although privacy advocates have expressed concern about the implications of law enforcement accessing public genealogy databases.

Anne Arundel County officials provided little information about Williams, saying only that he had an extensive criminal history and had spent most of his life in Virginia. He was 21 when Conyers was killed.

Officials said his family moved to Maryland when Williams was a teenager and attended an Anne Arundel County high school. He moved to Virginia sometime later. Police presented an old photo of Williams from the early 1970s, saying he had been arrested locally for minor charges, including drunkenness and disorderly conduct. Online court records do not include a reference to that arrest, though they do show he received a citation for fishing without a license in 1990.

Calls to phone numbers associated with his relatives were not immediately returned Friday.

Williams is survived by two children and several other relatives, according to his obituary.

“If he was still alive, he would have been charged with the murder of Pamela Conyers,” Anne Arundel County Police Chief Amal Awad said during Friday’s news conference.

Officials said the Conyers family had requested privacy.

Michael Golden, a high school classmate of Conyers, said the announcement brought a sense of closure — but also raised more questions. Golden attended the news conference with his high school yearbook in hand, opening it to a photo of Conyers.

“It’s always frustrating because I don’t know anything about this guy,” he said of the suspect. “It’s something that all of our classmates … have been dealing with all these years.”

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Golden, who befriended Conyers during band practice, said he remembers her passing vividly. He remembered an image of his empty desk in trigonometry class on the Monday morning after his disappearance.

“I still mourn his death,” he said. “I have to get old, and she doesn’t. She’s forever 16.”

David Wells, another longtime community member whose wife went to school with Conyers, said he was serving in the Air Force when the case unfolded. He remembered being stationed in Hawaii and receiving letters from family members about the tragedy back home.

Wells said he was surprised to learn that detectives did not believe her killing was linked to other cold case murders involving female victims around the same time.

While the investigation remains open, officials said detectives do not believe the Conyers case is connected to the killing of Catherine Ann Cesnik, a Baltimore nun who disappeared from a local mall and was later found dead from blunt force trauma. This case was presented in 2017 Netflix Documentary, “The Keepers”.

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