DNA from cigarette butt links former Buddhist monk to 1974 Vermont woman’s rape, strangulation death
02/22/2023 3:15 pm PST
BURLINGTON, Vt. (TCD) -- Detectives in Vermont closed a nearly 52-year-old cold case this week after DNA from a cigarette butt found at the scene identified the main suspect in Rita Curran’s rape and death by strangulation.
Several law enforcement officials from the Burlington Police Department spoke at a press conference Tuesday, Feb. 21, including Detective Lt. James Trieb, who investigated Curran’s case with his team over the course of the last several years.
Curran’s roommates found her dead July 19, 1971, in her bedroom at their apartment on Brookes Avenue in Burlington. Officers from the Burlington Police Department went to the apartment to process the scene and collect evidence.
According to the Burlington Police Department’s report on the killing, Curran was found naked on the floor "with blood covering her face." She had marks and bruises on her face and body and her legs were "entangled" with a sheet and bed spread.
The pathologist listed Curran’s cause of death as asphyxia by manual strangulation but noted she suffered multiple blunt force injuries and contusions.
While at the scene, detectives discovered a cigarette butt next to Curran’s right arm.
Trieb said the cigarette butt "sat in evidence for over 40 years" until his predecessor submitted it to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York for testing. Scientists extracted DNA and entered it into CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) but did not get a match.
Today we held a press conference announcing the cold-case closure of the 1971 murder of Rita Curran. Her killer was identified with help from @Parabon. He died of an overdose in 1986. The conference can be seen on our Facebook page:https://t.co/OfKym2COqd— Burlington Police (@OneNorthAvenue) February 21, 2023 @OneNorthAvenue
The detective who reopened Curran’s case retired, and Trieb and his team of detectives took it over. Trieb said the slaying occurred in a 70-minute window, so he believed the killer must have lived nearby. Police at the time spoke with an upstairs neighbor, William DeRoos, and his wife, and they said they were home together all night.
Trieb sent DNA taken from the cigarette butt to Parabon Nanolabs, and scientists at the lab created a family tree that traced genealogy to William DeRoos. DeRoos' half-brother reportedly took a DNA test, which confirmed Parabon’s findings.
Parabon noted in their report, "William should be strongly considered as a candidate to be the Subject based on the fact that genealogical connections were found to all five of the Subject’s top genetic matches, through both the maternal and paternal sides of his family tree and three of his grandparents' ancestral lines. Further, documentation was discovered that he resided in the same building as the victim at the time of the crime."
William DeRoos and his wife, Michelle, lived three floors above Curran and got married only a few weeks before Curran was killed.
In September 2022, detectives spoke with DeRoos' ex-wife, Michelle Roach, who now goes by the name Kylas Nagaarjuna. Police referred to her as Kylas in their report, and she said she and her then-husband argued on the night Curran died. He took a "cool down walk" and left their apartment. Afterward, DeRoos told her to lie to police about his whereabouts because he had a criminal background.
DeRoos moved to Thailand not long after Curran’s death and became a Buddhist monk. In March 1972, Kylas traveled to Thailand, and by then, DeRoos had disrobed. They traveled for a few weeks, then he rejoined the monastery and she became a nun. Kylas said he left Thailand and asked her for money, but she refused. She said that was the last time she spoke to him.
Also in September 2022, detectives spoke to Sarah Hepting, who was also DeRoos' ex-wife. She said they met in 1974 at a "Zen flat" in San Francisco, and the two wed in November 1974. DeRoos once stabbed Hepting’s friend in their apartment and also strangled Hepting in a separate incident. Their marriage ended, and she said she did not see him again after that.
According to Burlington Police, DeRoos died of a drug overdose in 1986.
TRUE CRIME DAILY: THE PODCAST covers high-profile and under-the-radar cases every week. Subscribe to our YouTube page for podcasts, exclusive videos, and more, and don’t forget to follow us on TikTok.
Waiting for your permission to load facebook comments.