HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. (WNCN) — There are new developments in a 33-year-old Orange County cold case first reported last week on CBS 17.
It was then that detectives with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office finally identified the victim as Lisa Kesler.
The discovery of her identity was a last ditch effort to get DNA and it paid off.
The case began coming together last week when a new kind of analysis technique found DNA from a degraded strand of hair that an investigator had stored back in 1990.
That led to DNA matches of relatives as well as the victim’s ex-husband.
Those developments helped investigators put together the back story of her life and point them in a new direction.
Newspaper journalist finds key photos
The discovery of Lisa Coburn Kesler’s identity led them to Jackson County, Georgia where she grew up.
Within days of the story going public, some digging by a local reporter at the Jackson Herald revealed something investigators couldn’t find.
“We’ve got a journalist out there in her hometown who had done some really good work and found these photographs where actually some really talented investigators had not been able to find in Georgia–a picture of her,” said Orange County Sheriff Charles Blackwood. “I think that was remarkable, a very good find if you will.”
The high school yearbook photographs show Lisa Coburn at 17.
Coburn was her name until she married and became Lisa Kesler. It was a brief marriage.
“At this point in time, the husband is no longer a person of interest,” said the sheriff.
Former classmates of Lisa told the local reporter from the Jackson Herald she was a quiet person who kept to herself, but the sheriff says there was more to her life than that.
“As you began to read the book of the person, there are unique qualities that are who we become,” said Blackwood. “Her book was very complex and without getting into any details at this time, I’ll just say that it was a very, very complex life that she lived.”
DNA discovery, maiden name important to case
That complex life ended when her strangled body was tossed by the side of Interstate 40 back in 1990.
Being able to backtrack her life under her maiden name has also led investigators to someone who may provide answers about her death.
“We do have a person of interest that we intend to interview,” said the sheriff. “We have interviewed that person before.
“We are working with an individual who has a very unique skill set in interrogation in cases like this,” said Blackwood.
It was the yearbook photo with her maiden name that the sheriff said really played a role in these latest developments.
After DNA helped identify her last week, investigators kept hitting dead ends looking for pictures under the name Lisa Kesler. When they unearthed the Lisa Coburn high school photo, things started to come together.
In a previous interview with CBS 17’s Steve Sbraccia, Sheriff Blackwood said the positioning of Lisa’s body and clothing at the murder scene was very unique.
He said descriptions relating to that are being used by forensic detectives who are combing databases to find similar crimes which may also play a role in this investigation.