Man identified through controversial DNA technique as suspect in 1976 slaying of ex-wife of Righteous Brothers singer who was raped and strangled with her pantyhose is dead, police reveal

  • Karen Klaas, 32, was raped and murdered at her home in California in 1976
  • Investigators believe Kenneth Eugene Troyer was responsible for the slaying
  • Authorities used controversial familial DNA to identify the cold case killer
  • Attacker was tracked down by using the DNA of a relative of the suspect 

A suspect identified through DNA in the slaying of the ex-wife of Righteous Brothers singer Bill Medley is dead, officials announced Monday.

Investigators believe Kenneth Eugene Troyer was responsible for the January 1976 slaying of 32-year-old Karen Klaas, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said. 

Troyer was killed by police in 1982.  

Klaas was attacked on January 30, 1976 as she returned to her home in the Hermosa Beach neighborhood. 

She was sexually assaulted and strangled with her pantyhose in the horrific attack. Klaas never regained consciousness and died a few days later at the hospital. 

Karen Klaas, pictured with husband Righteous Brothers singer Bill Medley in 1969, was murdered in 1976 when she was 32 years old

Bill Medley pauses for a moment while answering questions from the media during a news conference Monday in Los Angeles

Suspect Kenneth Troyer was shot and killed by police after escaping from a California prison in 1982, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said

Investigators used a controversial DNA testing technique, known as familial DNA, to compare a sample of DNA that was collected at the crime scene and were able to identify a 'first-degree relative' of Troyer, Sheriff's Capt. Steve Katz said.

Officials would not identify the relative and would only say the sample they used was in a state database of convicted felons. 

'Because of the familial DNA search, detectives were able to link Troyer's DNA and positively confirm his identity as the killer,' McDonnell said Monday as he stood alongside Medley and more than a dozen other law enforcement officials. 

'Familial DNA search is the only reason Troyer was identified in this horrific crime.'

Troyer, who had been suspected of committing several other sexual assaults in California, was shot and killed by police after escaping from a California prison in 1982, McDonnell said. 

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell, center, said the man who raped and killed Karen Klaas was shot and killed by police more than three decades ago

Medley, front left, is comforted by Hermosa Beach police captain Milton McKinnon after the news conference 

Klaas was sexually assaulted, strangled with her pantyhose and never regained consciousness during the horrific attack. Medley was divorced from Klaas at the time but they had a son together. They are above pictured in 1966

As investigators began to hone in on him as a possible suspect last year, they were able to obtain a sample of his DNA that was held in the Orange County coroner's office and conclusively link him to Klaas' slaying, Katz said.  

The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department had said on Friday that investigators had used the DNA testing method to solve the decades-old killing.

The familial DNA technique, which has raised ethical issues in the forensics community, allows investigators to search law enforcement databases to identify likely relatives of the person who may have committed the crime. 

Law enforcement officials have defended the technique by arguing that it can provide valuable leads to investigators.

But it has been criticized by some who fear it can potentially put law-abiding citizens under genetic surveillance.    

Sheriff's investigators, seeking help from the public in 2009 when they reopened the case, said two witnesses spotted a shaggy-haired, bearded man in a trench coat and blue jeans leaving the house, but the man was never seen again.  

Bill Medley (right) is one half of the famed Righteous Brothers signing duo with Bobby Hatfield (left). They are pictured above in 1974 - two years before his ex-wife was murdered

Officials said they were able to cull together a DNA profile of Klaas' killer but in 2009 said it hadn't matched anyone in the national DNA database.

It enabled them to create a composite of the man, but provided no further leads.  

The Righteous Brothers singer was divorced from Klaas at the time she was raped and murdered, but the two had a 10-year-old son together.

Medley stayed by his ex-wife's bedside while she was in coma following the attack.

'Karen was very loved and respected, and it was a horror what happened to her,' Medley told the Orange County Register back in 2000. 

'She has a lot of friends who would like to see this resolved.'  

Medley one half of the famed Righteous Brothers signing duo was divorced from his wife Karen Klaas when she was murdered

The arrest brought closure to a family that has struggled with questions for decades, Medley told reporters at a news conference Monday.

'It's been something we've been hoping for and speculating about for 40 years and all of a sudden they say, "We got him and here's who did it,"' Medley said. 

'It's just nice to be able to close the book on this.'

According to People, he said: 'We miss Karen, and the most important thing is the boys didn’t get to grow up with their mother. She would have been a incredible grandma. 

'She was an incredible girl and was one of my best friends after the divorce. When it happened, it was just a mind-blower.' 


An individual will inherit half their DNA from each parent so familial searching can be used to find a suspect, from their offspring or possibly even from a sibling

Sometimes a detective investigating a homicide or a rape has a DNA profile of the perpetrator - which may have come from blood, semen, sweat or some other body fluid - but it does not match anything in their database of profiles. 

A DNA profile is made up of 10 pairs of numbers, known as alleles, with parents and children sharing exactly half of the numbers.

But DNA profiles of numerous unrelated people could also share exactly half of the numbers. 

So a comparison may bring up a small pool of people whose DNA is similar to the perpetrators. Detectives can then sift through it to find people who are geographically close to the crime scene.

From that shortlist they may be able to work out a relative who could be a possible suspect. 



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