DNA confirms ID of man who killed area real estate agent in 1981

Virginia “Ginger” Freeman, 40, was murdered on Dec. 1, 1981. DNA evidence identified the man who killed her as James Otto Earhart. (MGN photos via KBTX)
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BRYAN, Texas (KWTX) DNA evidence has confirmed the identity of the man who murdered a area real estate agent in 1981, according to the Brazos County Sheriff's Office.

KBTX’s Whitney Miller confirmed exclusively Monday afternoon the results came back positive for James Otto Earhart.

His body was exhumed last year for DNA testing.

Virginia “Ginger” Freeman, 40, was murdered on Dec. 1, 1981, outside a rural Brazos County residence that she had been showing to a prospective client.

An autopsy revealed she had been struck on her head, strangled and stabbed.

Earhart was also convicted of murdering nine-year-old Kandy Kirtland on May 12, 1987, and put to death for the crime on Aug. 11, 1999.

He's also suspected of killing 51-year-old Ruth Richardson Green in 1986.

A DNA sample was not taken from Earhart at the time of his death, but Brazos County investigators were able to locate his son, who offered his DNA.

That DNA indicated a parent-child match between the two men, evidence the sheriff's office called "clear and convincing."

DNA evidence analyzed by Parabon NanoLabs in the creation of their Snapshot profile of Freeman's killer led to the belief that Earhart was the killer. The Brazos County Sheriff's Office released Parabon's profile to the public in March of 2017. Parabon contacted the sheriff's office on June 20, 2018, with the hypothesis that Earhart was Freeman's killer.

"The solving of this 'cold' case after 37 years of investigating, brings relief and closure for the Freeman family, Virginia's friends, the local real estate industry and our community," said Sheriff Chris Kirk in a statement issued last year.

"It is an incredible example of the tenacity and perseverance of the investigators involved in this case. Also, we were blessed with opportunities to take advantage of emerging technologies in forensic sciences that [led] to a break-through. We are elated to finally close this case. Our one regret is that we cannot put handcuffs on the killer and prosecute him for the vicious killing of Virginia Freeman."

Sheriff Kirk also credited BCSO investigators Dick Gulledge and Kenny Elliott; Texas Rangers Bob Connell, Frank Malinak and Josh Ray; the DPS Crime Lab and Snapshot/Parabon NanoLabs as being critical to solving the case.