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Deer hunters found Mary Willfong dead in Georgia over 3 decades ago. DNA has led to an arrest in Indiana.

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An Indiana man was taken into custody last week in connection with a gruesome cold case murder i Georgia that had been unsolved for more than three decades, authorities said.

The man, identified as Larry Padgett, 59, of Loogootee, Indiana, was arrested on March 1 in the 1989 killing of 23-year-old Mary Louicile Willfong, the Monroe County Sheriff's Office announced in a news release. Padgett was extradited back to Georgia, where the homicide took place and where, according to booking records, he is now in custody on a murder charge.

Willfong's body was found by deer hunters near an interstate highway in Georgia on Nov. 21, 1989, according to the Monroe County Sheriff. A subsequent autopsy showed that Willfong had been sexually assaulted and ruled the cause of death was strangulation. 

Larry Padgett, 56, was taken into custody last week on a murder charge for his alleged role in the 1989 killing of 23-year-old Mary Louicile Willfong, authorities say. Daviess County Sheriff

At the time, authorities say investigators received tips that suggested Willfong had been seen earlier at a farmer's market in Forest Park, Georgia, getting into a tractor trailer with a man.

"During the investigation several suspects were sought after, interviewed and DNA was taken from the suspects," the sheriff's office wrote. "The DNA samples taken from the suspects did not match the DNA taken from the victim. The case was eventually closed and was unsolved."

In March 2019, the sheriff's office in Georgia reopened Willfong's case and assigned it to an investigator, Marc Mansfield. The investigator resubmitted the original evidence to the crime lab at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, which processed it again using new technology. Mansfield then transported the evidence to a forensic lab in Miami, where a genealogy trace was completed on DNA taken from Willfong, authorities said. 

Coordinating with special agents from the Atlanta branch of the FBI, Mansfield identified Padgett as a suspect in Willfong's murder. The FBI and police in Washington, Indiana, collected additional DNA from the suspect, which was evaluated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's crime lab and determined to be a match with the original DNA sample taken from Willfong's body in 1989.

While in Indiana, authorities say investigators were able to collect more evidence in the case linking Padgett to Willfong's murder. Padgett was transferred to Monroe County two days after his initial arrest, and records show that he remains in custody there without a set bond amount.

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