DNA evidence leads to arrest in nearly 30-year-old murder case in DC

For 29 years, the murder of a woman in Southeast D.C. had gone largely unsolved. Due to newly presented DNA evidence, police in the District have identified and arrested a suspect in the case.

On Thursday, police arrested and charged 58-year-old William Ransford, of Southeast, with second degree murder for the 1993 death of Debra McManus.

On Oct. 23, 1993, around 7 a.m. police found the nearly undressed body of McManus, who was 39 at the time of her death, on the ground near the football field of Ballou High School in Southeast. The cause of death was determined to be strangulation and was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner.

McManus’s clothes were found nearby the murder scene, from which DNA was taken and sent to an FBI laboratory for testing. Semen was found on her clothes, as were other sources of DNA. The resulting samples, however, did not find a match and the case went cold for nearly 30 years.

But, in December of 2020, the same clothing items were resent for DNA testing at Bode Technology labs, according to the affidavit in support of Ransford’s arrest.

A breakthrough occurred in February of this year when a crime lab in Wyoming said a DNA sample from McManus’s sock, “resulted in a match with the FBI Federal DNA Database Unit.” That match was with William Alphonso Ransford.”

Ransford’s DNA had been on file because of a 2001 conviction for first-degree sexual assault while armed and armed kidnapping.

On May 11, 2022, Ransford was located and interviewed by police at the United Medical Center in Southeast. During the interview, he denied knowing McManus. After being told his DNA was associated with the victim, Ransford said, “no way,” according to the affidavit.

Ransford then consented to a cheek swab for new DNA testing. Subsequent results filed in the affidavit said it is extremely unlikely the DNA gathered from McManus’s clothing items could be linked to someone besides Ransford.

DNA was found on other clothing items belonging to McManus, but their connection to Ransford was inconclusive.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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