GEORGETOWN, Texas (KXAN) - A 53-year-old man was in custody on a capital murder charge Tuesday in the 1980 death of a 73-year-old Williamson County woman who was was beaten and strangled.
The Williamson County Sheriff's Office said Steven Alan Thomas is charged with capital murder in the rape and strangulation of Mildred McKinney.
The office said Thomas, who once lived in the Dallas suburb of Garland, was linked to the killing through DNA.
"Sheriff’s officials met with personnel from the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab to review their findings in this case," the sheriff's office said in a statement. "It was determined through examination and forensic testing that the additional DNA collected from Steven Alan Thomas on July 5, 2012, matched the DNA found at the murder of McKinney.
"Further analysis determined that a latent fingerprint print from the scene of the murder also belonged to Thomas."
According to the arrest warrant affidavit released Tuesday, Thomas' DNA was in the federal data base and an administrator with the Texas Department of Public Safety's crime lab made the match linking him to McKinney late last month.
Thomas was arrested Monday at a home in Austin. Sergeant John Foster has been leading the investigation since 2007.
"He was cooperative," said Foster. "It did not come as a surprise to him that he was being taken into custody."
McKinney lived alone in a Williamson County duplex near the corner of Sherbourne Street and Anderson Mill Road. She was found on her floor in her bedroom, beaten, tied, sexually assaulted and strangled on Nov. 4, 1980.
"It's going to say a lot to a judge. It's going to say a lot to a jury that this DNA did not just miraculously appear in the home of Mildred McKinney," said Foster. "Nor did his fingerprint miraculously appear in Mildred McKinney's home."
In 2010, KXAN spoke with McKinney's daughter, Patricia Stapleton, then in her 70s and her health declining. She recalled how she found her mother's body when she went to her home to check on her.
"I started looking around the house and I got to the bedroom, and I could see my mother’s legs hanging out from the bathroom," Stapleton said, who died about a year and a half ago. "She was half in and half out.”
The wall and ceiling were covered in blood. A chair, end table and vacuum cleaner were stacked on her mother’s body.
Stapleton's son, Bob Stapleton, said the family takes solace in the fact that an arrest finally been made.
"My family and I are very grateful with this unexpected news -- news which comes bittersweet that it was not realized before the passing of first our father and then our mother over the last year and a half," he said in a statement issued through the sheriff's office.
"But it does not alter our sincere gratitude to the Williamson County Sheriff's Office and Sgt. John Foster for their (his) years of tireless and steadfast work in solving this case. Without their resolve, their determination, and their passion for this cold case we may have never known closure to my grandmother's story. She was a glorious woman who my family and I love and cherish and who will continue to live on in our fondest memories."
The sheriff's office said that several agencies over the years have assisted in this case, including the FBI, the Garland Police Department, the Texas Rangers, and the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab.
Public data shows that Thomas's record includes charges for marijuana possession last year in Garland. He was also no-billed on an assault, impeded breathing charge. Other drug and gun charges were filed against him in Austin around 1994.