Updated at 6:00 p.m.: Updated to include more material about the case from The Dallas Morning News archives, police and family members of Carla Walker.
Jim Walker waited nearly 50 years for an answer.
In the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 1974, his sister Carla Walker was pulled from a car, kidnapped, raped, killed and left in a culvert near Benbrook Lake. Fort Worth police investigated the case over and over for decades, but her murder remained unsolved until this week.
Police announced Tuesday that they arrested a Fort Worth man who, in 1974, lived less than a mile from where Walker was kidnapped.
Jim Walker said it was a moment he’d prayed for.
“I would like to sit here and tell you I never gave up hope,” he said Tuesday, “but there were times.”
Glen Samuel McCurley, 77, faces a capital murder charge and is in the Tarrant County Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail. Police said he was a person of interest since the earliest days of the investigation. It was unclear Tuesday whether McCurley has an attorney.
Police said it took new DNA testing of old evidence to put the pieces together. A new pair of detectives took over the case last year.
“We had made a promise to the Walker family,” said Fort Worth Police Detective Leah Wagner, who helped break the case. “It’s one thing to work toward a goal, and it was another to achieve it.”
Jim Walker said people have prayed for his family. Now he’s hoping the community turns their prayers toward the family of the man who police say killed his sister.
“We’re praying for you. We don’t hate you,” Jim Walker said Tuesday. “We want to see justice, with prayers and forgiveness.”
After a Valentine’s Day dance at Western Hills High School, Walker and her boyfriend, Rodney McCoy, were sitting in his car near a bowling alley near the west side of Fort Worth, according to an arrest warrant affidavit for McCurley.
She was leaning against the passenger door in a blue gown with white lace, McCoy told police, when a man in his 20s with a cowboy hat opened the door and pulled her from the car, The Dallas Morning News reported at the time. McCoy said he reached for Walker, but the man shot at him with a pistol and smacked him in the head, causing him to black out.
Police searched the area on horseback and with helicopters. They found Walker’s purse and a .22 Ruger magazine near the bowling alley.
Three days later they found Walker’s body, her blue formal gown partially ripped away, in a culvert near Benbrook Lake. Her bra had been pushed up and her underwear, pantyhose and shoes were gone.
Police said she had been beaten, raped, tortured and strangled but there were no rope marks on her body, suggesting that she had been strangled by the attacker’s hands.
In the days after, police talked to a man who was a regular at the bowling alley and always wore a cowboy hat. They tracked down people who lived nearby and owned a .22 Ruger.
One of those men was McCurley.
On April 3, 1974, just a few weeks after Walker’s body was found, police interviewed McCurley at his home. He said his .22 had been stolen while he was fishing at the river.
But detectives didn’t have enough evidence to arrest him back then. Investigators abandoned him as a suspect for nearly half a century.
Over the next several years, detectives continued investigating Walker’s slaying. In May 1974 police said a Euless man charged in three other murders was a “good suspect” in Walker’s kidnapping, rape and death. At least two other men were given polygraph tests in connection with the crime. But they were never charged.
In 1978 another man was indicted with killing Walker after admitting to the crime at a Tennessee police station. Then-Tarrant County District Attorney Tim Curry said at the time that he had “major reservations” about the indictment. The case was later dismissed after the man said he was “drunk and on dope” when he made his confession.
As DNA evidence became a standard for forensic investigations in recent decades, physical evidence was tested and retested. DNA was found on Walker’s bra, but police could not find a match.
When Wagner and another detective, Jay Bennett, took over the case last year, Walker’s murder had begun generating more interest from investigators and the public.
Last year police released a handwritten letter related to the case that was mailed to a Fort Worth detective. The letter included a redacted name, police said, then “killd Carla Walker in Benbrook… PS It is hard to say but it is true.”
Wagner said Tuesday that the letter ultimately did not provide a link to McCurley.
Earlier this year, Wagner and Bennett said they sent the DNA from Walker’s bra to a Houston lab. GEDmatch, the genealogical database that helped detectives in California identify the Golden State Killer in 2018, narrowed the search to a family of three brothers with the last name McCurley, police said.
Wagner and Bennett recognized the name from the decades-old case file, according to an arrest affidavit.
According to the arrest affidavit, McCurley had served time for car theft when he was identified as a person of interest in 1974. But Bennett said he is not aware of McCurley being a suspect in other crimes.
McCurley drove a truck for many years, according to the affidavit, and his wife was out of town at the time of the crime.
In July, officers collected trash from outside McCurley’s Fort Worth home and sent possible DNA samples to the lab.
On Sept. 4, according to the affidavit, Wagner heard from the lab that the DNA from the trash matched the sample from Walker’s bra.
Bennett and Walker interviewed McCurley at home a few days later, and he gave a DNA sample and denied knowing or killing Walker.
Last Wednesday, McCurley’s DNA matched the samples from the crime scene. He was arrested Monday, the detectives said.
“This is the culmination of countless hours,” Bennett said. “Being able to give the Walkers the satisfaction after all these years is just indescribable.”