Oregon man convicted of murdering Anchorage teen in 1978 cold case

three men pose for a photo together
Donald McQuade, center, poses for a photo with Public Defender Agency attorneys Benjamin Dresner, left and Kyle Barber at the Nesbett Courthouse in Anchorage on Nov. 29, 2023. (Jeremy Hsieh/Alaska Public Media)

An Anchorage jury convicted an Oregon man Tuesday on all counts in the 1978 cold-case murder of a local teenager.

Donald McQuade, 67, had been accused of first-degree and second-degree murder in the death of 16-year-old Shelley Connolly, who was found dead near a Seward Highway pullout between Anchorage and Girdwood.

Four decades later, genetic genealogy linked McQuade to the unsolved crime and Alaska State Troopers arrested him in 2019. McQuade’s trial was subsequently delayed due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, which has slowed much of Alaska’s court system in recent years.

Through the use of the revolutionary investigative technique, troopers had linked DNA found on the body to McQuade and his two brothers.

In opening statements as the two-week trial began late last month, Assistant Attorney General Paige Smothers emphasized the evidence from Connolly’s body.

McQuade had been the only brother living in Alaska at the time of Connolly’s murder, and troopers were later able to get a DNA sample from McQuade that was a direct match to DNA found on her body.

McQuade’s public defender, Kyle Barber, told jurors the DNA evidence was the only evidence the state had against his client. He said investigators had found DNA evidence possibly linked to two other people on Connolly.

McQuade’s sentencing is set for April 26.

Correction: An earlier version of this story inaccurately stated that Donald McQuade’s brothers were dead.

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cklint@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Chris here.

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