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Denise A. Comeau, age 30, of Worcester

December 23, 2015

Dec. 11, 1992, strangled in Worcester.

Responding to a blaze at 141 Austin St., Worcester, firefighters discovered the body of a homeless woman inside the boarded-up house. She was so badly burned, she could not be immediately identified.

A break in the case came in 2007 when a DNA analysis linked Ms. Comeau’s killer to a pair of brutal rapes in the same neighborhood in the early 1990s. In 2010, Detectives William Donovan and Daniel Sullivan of the Worcester Police Unresolved Homicide Unit flew to Alabama to recover tissue samples from the grave of a man who had died two years earlier for comparison to the DNA recovered from one of the Worcester rapes.

DNA helps link dead man to 2 murders

The Alabama man authorities said they have concluded strangled Denise A. Comeau to death in 1992 is also a suspect in the 1993 death of Vicki J. Lehtinen, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said today.

DNA Tests Solve 1992 Worcester Murder

WORCESTER (CBS/AP) – The Worcester district attorney’s office says tests on DNA taken last year from the dead body of a man in Alabama have solved the 1992 slaying of a woman in Worcester. District Attorney Joseph Early had said in October that DNA recovered in the slaying of 30-year-old Denise Comeau matched DNA from two rapes committed in Worcester in the 1990s.

The grave couldn’t hide James Earl Johnson’s secret

It took 19 years, but the man authorities say strangled Denise Comeau to death in December 1992 has been found. He’ll never face a jury, though. His body lies in a grave in Tuskegee, Ala., In the end, it was DNA evidence that led authorities to him.

Updated on May 11, 2011 :

DA Early announced on May 11, 2011 that James Earl Johnson, a former Worcester resident who died in Alabama, was responsible for Ms. Comeau’s death.