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Cold case rape and murder of Michigan woman, 30, who was killed 32 years ago is finally solved

Police in Michigan have identified the man who raped and then fatally stabbed a woman in 1988 with the help of DNA evidence taken from a blood vial that was held for decades by local law enforcement, according to the victim’s family.

Gayle Barrus, a 30-year-old single mother of three children, was sexually assaulted and stabbed after her disappearance on October 9, 1988 in front of a coffee shop in Battle Creek, Michigan.

Her body was found 16 days later by hunters in nearby Emmett Township.

At the time of her disappearance, Gayle was working at two local bars. 

She was last seen leaving Speed’s Koffee Shop at 1425 West Michigan Avenue with a dark-haired man between 3 and 4am on October 9. 

Barrus’ son, James, wrote a post on Facebook in which he announced that the police have positively identified Roger Allen Plato, 24, as the man responsible for his mother’s death.

While DNA evidence tying Plato to the crime was inconclusive, James Barrus writes that detectives recently found a blood vial that was held by county police. The sample was then turned over to Michigan State Police, which tested the vial. 

Plato will not face trial, however. He was shot and killed by a detective during a struggle just two weeks after Barrus’ disappearance and three days before her body was discovered.

Roger Allen Plato

Gayle Barrus (left), a 30-year-old single mother of three children, was sexually assaulted and stabbed in October 1988. She was last seen on October 9, 1988 in front of a coffee shop in Battle Creek, Michigan. According to Gayle’s son, police have identified the suspect, Roger Allen Plato (right), 24, using DNA taken from a blood vial

Gayle's body was found 16 days later by hunters in nearby Emmett Township, Michigan

Gayle’s body was found 16 days later by hunters in nearby Emmett Township, Michigan

Three days before Gayle's body was discovered, Plato was shot and killed during a struggle with a Battle Creek Police Department detective that sought to question him in connection with the abduction and rape of another Battle Creek woman

Three days before Gayle’s body was discovered, Plato was shot and killed during a struggle with a Battle Creek Police Department detective that sought to question him in connection with the abduction and rape of another Battle Creek woman

Last spring, police said they narrowed down the list of suspects to Plato (left) and his friend, Richard Compton (right), who is alleged to have witnessed the sexual assault and murder. DNA evidence ruled out Compton as the primary suspect. Compton died in 2009. He was 59 years old

Last spring, police said they narrowed down the list of suspects to Plato (left) and his friend, Richard Compton (right), who is alleged to have witnessed the sexual assault and murder. DNA evidence ruled out Compton as the primary suspect. Compton died in 2009. He was 59 years old

Barrus’ son, James, wrote a post on Facebook in which he announced that the police have positively identified Plato. As of Wednesday, however, Battle Creek Police Department and the Michigan State Police have yet to confirm that the case has been solved

Barrus’ son, James, wrote a post on Facebook in which he announced that the police have positively identified Plato. As of Wednesday, however, Battle Creek Police Department and the Michigan State Police have yet to confirm that the case has been solved

Barrus told DailyMail.com: ‘An officer at the Calhoun County Sheriff’s office was conducting a routine audit of an evidence storage facility and located a vial of blood belonging to Roger Plato. 

‘He recalled reading the story in the paper about my mother and the link to Plato and called the Battle Creek Police department and turned the vial over to them…it was promptly turned over to Michigan State Police crime lab. 

‘DNA of Roger Plato had been elusive all of these years, and there were no samples that were “good enough” to get a conclusive read.’ 

At the time of his death, detectives sought to question Plato in connection with another kidnapping and sexual assault of a woman in Battle Creek just a month earlier.

DailyMail.com reached out to Battle Creek Police Department in an attempt to confirm James Barrus’ claims, but officials declined to comment.

‘I am excited to report that a DNA MATCH HAS BEEN FOUND!’ James wrote on a Facebook page titled ‘Justice for Gayle II’ on Monday.

‘Mom’s case is the prosecutor’s signature away from being CLOSED!!!’

According to James, forensic investigators were able to get a hold of a 32-year-old vial of Plato’s blood from the county sheriff’s office.

They then turned the sample over to Michigan State Police, which conducted DNA testing that produced a match, according to James.

DailyMail.com has sought comment from Michigan State Police.

James wrote on Facebook: ‘I was informed of the vial being located but held off reporting it due to the numerous issues we had with previous samples that had been tested.

Gayle was a single mother of three children who worked two jobs at two different bars at the time of her death

Gayle was a single mother of three children who worked two jobs at two different bars at the time of her death

On his personal Facebook page, James (right), who now resides in Dayton, Ohio, posted a photo in which he is seen with his girlfriend, Odessa L Mcdermott Angilella. He wrote: 'Sooooo...it has been kind of a BIG day! Not only did I receive some welcome news, but I got to spend it with this amazing lady! It is not only her birthday, but it is our one year anniversary!'

On his personal Facebook page, James (right), who now resides in Dayton, Ohio, posted a photo in which he is seen with his girlfriend, Odessa L Mcdermott Angilella. He wrote: ‘Sooooo…it has been kind of a BIG day! Not only did I receive some welcome news, but I got to spend it with this amazing lady! It is not only her birthday, but it is our one year anniversary!’

‘Plato’s DNA had eluded BCPD, because he was shot and killed by a detective two days before mother’s body was found.

‘He was subsequently cremated. DNA was still in its infancy in 1988…and not very well understood, but it is very well understood today, and I knew that we would reach this milestone one day!’

James added: ‘A weight has been lifted off our shoulders.’

On his personal Facebook page, James, who now resides in Dayton, Ohio, posted a photo in which he is seen with his girlfriend, Odessa L Mcdermott Angilella. 

He wrote: ‘Sooooo…it has been kind of a BIG day! Not only did I receive some welcome news, but I got to spend it with this amazing lady! 

‘It is not only her birthday, but it is our one year anniversary!’ 

In June, BCPD Detective Scott Marshall said that investigators who had focused in on two possible suspects – Plato and a friend, Richard Compton – could not definitively conclude that either one was behind Gayle’s rape and murder.

At the time of her disappearance, Gayle was working at two local bars. She was last seen leaving Speed's Koffee Shop at 1425 West Michigan Avenue with a dark-haired man between 3 and 4am on October 9

At the time of her disappearance, Gayle was working at two local bars. She was last seen leaving Speed’s Koffee Shop at 1425 West Michigan Avenue with a dark-haired man between 3 and 4am on October 9

Investigators said that they tested DNA samples that were taken from Compton’s exhumed body and no match was found with samples found on Gayle at the time of her death, the Battle Creek Enquirer reported.

Tests of DNA from Plato also provided inconclusive, Marshall said at the time.

Compton, who died in 2009 at the age of 59, is believed to have witnessed Plato sexually assaulting and killing Gayle.

Police said that Gayle was seen arguing with two men near the spot where her body was found. Investigators believe the two men were Plato and Compton.

Compton was considered the primary suspect until DNA results last spring ruled it out, according to police.

Investigators said in June that they hit a roadblock since Plato, his sister, and their parents had all died and were cremated.

‘There is nothing that links Compton and we can’t link Plato at this point,’ Marshall said in June.

‘His DNA has been tested several times and there is not enough to test.’

Marshall said that police would search for a distant relative of Plato in hopes that another DNA sample could be provided. 


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