CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) -- The Cedar Rapids Police Cold Case Unit on Tuesday confirmed a DNA match for a suspect in the murder of 17-year-old Maureen Brubaker Farley.
George M. Smith of Cedar Rapids was considered a strong suspect early on. He died 8 years ago.
On the 50th anniversary of the date Farley's body was found, Det. Matt Denlinger received confirmation of Smith's DNA matching the DNA found at the crime scene.
Farley's mother Mary Ann Brubaker and her sister Lisa Schenzel are remembering their sister and calling the timing of the cold case being solved divine intervention.
"Wednesday morning [Denlinger] called, remember, and we were both crying then," Brubaker said.
Denlinger said Smith often asked about the progress of the murder investigation; he lived close to Farley and he frequently came to the diner where she worked.
He says investigators had eliminated more than 15 other suspects by the time his focus narrowed to Smith.
"As I dove into it a little more, I realized that in 1971, they had really honed it on it a little bit on George being one of the suspects. Some of his behavior at the police department and his suspiciously inquiring about the status of this case. Those are things that led them to suspect that he might be a good candidate for this," Denlinger said.
He took a DNA sample from one of George Smith's family members and compared it to the suspect's DNA at the crime scene. It was a match.
Brubaker says she knew all along it was George Smith of Cedar Rapids who killed her daughter.
"He was a customer," Brubaker said.
"Yeah, he was a customer of hers," Schenzel said, "He came in quite a bit, offered to help with her car, things like that."
For Farley's family, the discovery answers one question but opens up others.
"Was he ever sorry? Did he ever hurt anybody else? Did he ever try to make amends? You know, did he tell anybody? Did anyone else know," Schenzel said.
Denlinger says he is proud of being part of a larger investigation that spans five decades that led to this day.
"It makes me extremely proud of the Cedar Rapids Police Department. This is just another example of we served the community from 1971 until today with diligence and just really wanting to get a resolution for the families. That's our focus," Denlinger said.
He says he was excited to finish what investigators started from the beginning to today.
For Brubaker and Schenzel, they say they can rest and think about the good times with Maureen.
"She was born on July 4th. Everybody said she'd be a firecracker. She was. She was a wild child out of all of our 7 kids," Brubaker said.
"I remember Maureen around Christmas time, so I must have been like 3 then, and she taught me to sing Silver Bells," Schenzel said.
Denlinger says solving a case this one is a big win and serves as inspiration for future discoveries.