Oregon man who raped and dragged Alaska teen from a moving car in 1978 arrested after DNA links him to her death
62-year-old Donald F. McQuade has been charged with one count each for first- and second-degree murder. The 16-year-old was found on January 7,1978, sexually assaulted and beaten, lying dead along the railroad tracks.
ANCHORAGE, ALASKA: Alaska State Troopers have revealed that 62-year-old Donald F. McQuade was arrested in Oregon in connection with the murder of Shelley Connolly over 40 years ago. The 16-year-old was found on January 7,1978, sexually assaulted and beaten, lying dead along the railroad tracks. She had reportedly been dragged behind a vehicle, and then dumped along the tracks near Beluga Point, Mile 109 of the Seward Highway. After examination, her death was determined to have been caused by a blunt blow to her abdomen, which lacerated her liver.
Connolly was reported missing by her family after they heard about a murder in local media. Her body was discovered by a group of tourists. KTVA reports that McQuade has been charged with one count each for first- and second-degree murder and was taken into custody on Friday, August 30 in Gresham, Oregon.
“Investigators have spent years analyzing this case looking for a viable lead. I have an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction that all that work has paid off,” said Investigator Randy McPherron of the Alaska State Trooper’s Cold Case Unit. “More than anything, I am relieved to be able to provide Shelley’s friends and family a sense of justice and the knowledge that Shelley was more than a name on an unsolved homicide sitting in a filing cabinet somewhere. Every single victim matters to us.”
The teen’s mother, Judy Connolly, attended the announcement. Afterward, she said she was flabbergasted when she heard from Alaska State Troopers about the arrest. She noted it had been 41 years since Shelley’s death, which completely altered her family’s lives. “I’d never thought I’d see this day in my lifetime,” she said. “It means a lot.”
On that fateful day in 1978, Connolly had been seen on two separate occasions, once in the parking lot of Chilkoot Charlie’s in Spenard and later at Leroy’s Diner. According to news reports from that time, her broken fingernails and debris indicated that Connolly had tried to climb out of the ditch after being raped and dragged away. Oregon police reportedly arrested McQuade without incident. The arrest was made based on DNA technology that was not available at the time of Connolly’s death. Investigators did not make the connection till 2019 when they discovered DNA evidence that pointed to a set of brothers. They eventually narrowed their search down to McQuade after finding out that he was in Alaska at the time of the murder.
The Alaska Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory, working at the request of the Cold Case Unit, had used biological evidence collected during the autopsy to develop the DNA profile of an unknown male. Although no matches were generated from the DNA, which was loaded into the CODIS system in 2003, the investigators submitted the material to Parabon Nanolabs in 2019. Using the latest technology, the lab was able to link the DNA to McQuade, who was 21-years-old and living in Anchorage at the time of Connolly’s murder. Standard DNA testing confirmed McQuade matched the DNA profile. The DNA was obtained by Gresham police, who collected two cigarette butts that McQuade discarded in public.