Joe Michael Ervin named as suspect in 4 Denver-area murders between 1978 and 1981

For more than 40 years, a string of killings of four women in Denver and Adams County remained unsolved.

But on Friday, Denver police identified Joe Michael Ervin as the man who authorities believe killed three women and a pregnant teenager between 1978 and 1981. Ervin killed himself in 1981 after being arrested in connection with the killing of an Aurora police officer.

“While we recognize that identifying the suspect will not bring these ladies, we hope it provides closure and healing for their loved ones and the Denver community,” police Chief Paul Pazen said in a news release.

The four victims included: Madeleine Furey-Livaudis, 33; Dolores Barajas, 53; Gwendolyn Harris, 27; and Antoinette Parks, 17.

As genetic technology improved over the years, authorities slowly put together the pieces.

Investigators linked the four cases between 2013 and 2018 using DNA evidence, police said in the news release, and genetic genealogy work that began in 2019 led to a positive ancestry link in Texas.

Last summer, police conducted a familial search in Texas, resulting in the identification of a close biological relative of the suspect, who, at that point, had yet to have been identified. Ervin was eventually pegged as the suspect, and DNA evidence from his exhumed body matched evidence taken from the crime scenes of the murders, police said.

The four victims were all stabbed to death — at their homes, on their way to work and on the street — and left behind devastated family members and unfulfilled lives.

Furey-Livaudis — a wife, mother of two and avid swimmer — was at her northeast Denver home on Dec. 7, 1978, when a man came to her home, forced his way inside and stabbed her. She loved adventure, traveling throughout Europe and Africa as editor of the children’s magazine “Ranger Rick,” police said in the news release.

Barajas — a wife, mother and grandmother — was attacked Aug. 10, 1980, in the 500 block of East 17th Avenue while walking to work at a downtown hotel, authorities said. She had spent the summer visiting family and working at the hotel, and that Sunday was supposed to be her final day on the job before she returned to her home out of state.

Harris — a soft-spoken, athletic woman who always had a smile on her face — was found stabbed to death Dec. 24, 1980, on the corner of East 47th Avenue and Andrews Drive in Denver. She was last seen at the Polo Lounge Club downtown, which authorities later realized was a block from Ervin’s home.

Parks, a Gateway high school student in Aurora, was six-to-seven months pregnant when she was stabbed to death Jan. 24, 1981, in the area of 64th Avenue and Broadway in Adams County, police said. Her family believes she would have gone on to have a career in education of child care, police said, due to her caring nature and love for children.

Ervin never was tried for his alleged crimes. He died by suicide in 1981 in the Adams County Detention Center after being arrested in connection with the killing of an Aurora police officer, police said.

Officer Debra Sue Corr was patrolling alone on June 27, 1981, when she pulled Ervin over for a traffic violation. When Corr attempted to put Ervin in handcuffs, he broke free, took her gun and shot her, police said. Ervin then shot a teen police explorer, Glen Spies, who attempted to intervene. Spies was shot in the back but survived.

This is a developing story that will be updated.

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