Helene Pruszynski was a 21-year-old intern at a Denver radio station when she was killed while walking home from the bus after work on January 16, 1980. She was kidnapped, raped and stabbed in the back nine times and her body was found in a field the following day, the Denver Post reported. For nearly 40 years, her family suffered as law enforcement had no leads on the case.
Finally, in 2019, James Clanton was identified as the suspect after DNA from the crime scene was matched to him through genealogy sites. According to the Post, Clanton was arrested in December 2019 and pleaded guilty to the murder in February 2020, 40 years after Pruszynski’s death.
Where is James Clanton today? Is he still in prison?
Clanton Pleaded Guilty & Was Sentenced to Life in Prison in July 2020 With the Possibility of Parole
Clanton pleaded guilty to Pruszynski’s murder in February 2020. He told investigators that he’d abducted Pruszynski at knife-point, tied her hands behind her back and brought her to the field where her body was found the following day, the Denver Post reported.
As part of Clanton’s decision to plead guilty, he avoided the death penalty and was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole. He was not charged with rape as the statute of limitations had expired.
Douglas County Judge Theresa Slade told Clanton during sentencing, “There was a poem that Helene wrote that was read by one of her friends, and it said, ‘Let us live today with every hopeful promise of tomorrow.’ And Mr. Clanton, you get to keep having that. How you face that is up to you.”
According to public records with the Colorado Department of Corrections, the 63-year-old Clanton is sentenced to life with parole, with his estimated parole eligibility date coming up in 20 years, in December 2039. He is serving his sentence in Bent County Correctional Facility, a private medium-security prison.
Clanton Was Arrested in 2019 After Crime Scene DNA Was Uploaded to Genealogy Sites & He Confessed to Law Enforcement
Clanton was finally identified and caught when investigators used DNA from the crime scene to search genealogy sites for a match or a relative of the suspect, beginning in 2017. Clanton was eventually identified as a likely suspect and investigators traveled to Florida, where Clanton was living and working as a truck driver. Clanton, who was previously known as Curtis Allen White, had moved to Florida and changed his name two years after the murder, 9News reported.
A DNA sample was taken from Clanton’s beer glass at a bar and was matched to the crime scene DNA, Wicked Local reported. Clanton was then arrested in December 2019 and extradited to Colorado two days later. As viewers can see in the above video, Clanton began confessing his crime to investigators on the way to the airport.
Daniel Cunny, Clanton’s lawyer, told the court at the sentencing hearing that his client was remorseful over the killing. He said since Clanton became a father to a daughter, he’s felt growing guilt and prayed for Pruszynski, Milford Daily News wrote. Clanton decided to plead guilty to provide Pruszynski’s family closure, Cunny added. There is no publicly available information concerning Clanton’s family and daughter, and whether they still live in Florida.