An Arapahoe County jury found David Anderson, 62, guilty of murdering Sylvia Quayle in her Cherry Hills Village home in 1981. The June 30 verdict brings to a close a cold case that spanned more than four decades.
“For more than 40 years the defendant carried with him a dark secret, a secret that was finally revealed during this trial,” said Deputy District Attorney Grant Grosgebauer, one of the prosecutors on the case.
According to a district court affidavit, Quayle's body was found by her father, William Quayle, in her home at 3800 S. Ogden St in Cherry Hills Village.
Police responded to his call of a "woman down" just before 8 a.m. Aug. 4, 1981, and soon found her dead at the scene. Her father told officers he found Quayle's body "lying on the living room floor, nude with her arms above her head" and a white towel covering her face, according to the affidavit.
Police noted Quayle's hands were covered in blood and she had red marks on her neck, according to the affidavit. An investigation revealed she had been shot with a .22 caliber bullet in the top of her head, stabbed three times in her upper back and evidence showed strangulation, the affidavit said.
The case had been without a suspect for more than 25 years after DNA evidence in 1993 disproved another man's false confession to the crime.
In 2000, a DNA sample of the suspect taken at the crime scene was submitted to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation but was left unidentified for two more decades. In 2020, Cherry Hills Village police began working with former Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey, whose company United Data Connect provided the Cherry Hills Village department with genetic genealogy testing, a relatively new technology.
The company began developing leads for the unidentified DNA sample, which encompassed a pool of more than 3,300 people, according to Morrissey.
Through extensive investigation, Morrissey's team was able to home in on one suspect and, on Jan. 17, 2021, a company investigator traveled to Cozad, Nebraska to secretly collect DNA from Anderson.
What the investigator recovered were two separate trash bags found in the dumpster for the apartment complex where Anderson lived. About 15 items were tested, with DNA from a Vanilla Coke can matching the sample from the crime scene. Anderson was arrested in Nebraska on Feb. 10, 2021, and charged with two counts of first-degree murder.
Anderson initially faced a trial in early March but, after five days, jurors were unable to reach a verdict and a judge declared a mistrial. On June 30, the jury in a second trial returned guilty verdicts for Anderson on both counts of murder.
“We’re very grateful for the numerous investigators, analysts and forensic scientists who, through the decades, refused to let the passage of time deter them in their quest for justice,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Chris Gallo. “We certainly hope that this small measure of justice brings some degree of peace to Sylvia Quayle’s family, who has waited more than 40 years for this result.”
Michelle Tovrea, who served as Cherry Hills Village's police chief during the investigation and arrest of Anderson, paid respects to Quayle during a Feb. 25, 2021 press conference announcing Anderson's arrest.
"Sylvia's sister and family had the quote 'beauty seen is never lost' etched onto her grave marker, a very fitting reminder of the beautiful person she was," said Tovrea, who retired March 4.
Quayle is remembered by those she knew as being "ambitious, vibrant, friendly," Tovrea said, adding that she was someone who "would have given her last dollar" to friends who needed it.
A graduate of Englewood High School, Quayle had a colorful palette of jobs and hobbies. She worked as a secretary at an architecture firm and enjoyed researching the work of her architect uncle, Wesley Quayle, according to Tovrea.
She also opened a small bakery known as The Buttery that specialized in wedding cakes. And she had talent as an artist, creating various pottery pieces of flower vases and bowls, many of which reside today in the home of her sister.
Tovrea said Quayle was known to have had a close and loving relationship with her sister as well as with her mother and father, who are both deceased.
Anderson is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 4 and, based on the sentencing laws in effect at the time of the crime, faces life behind bars with the possibility of parole after 20 years.
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