District Attorney announces break in 50-year-old cold case murder
Cobb District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit solves homicide from 1972
DNA evidence confirmed the identity of the killer who abducted, raped, and killed 9-year-old schoolgirl.
(Marietta, GA – Sept. 18, 2023) For more than 50 years, the mystery of who killed a young Marietta girl has haunted investigators and troubled the community. Nine-year-old Debbie Lynn Randall was reported missing on Jan. 13, 1972, when she failed to come home from the nearby laundromat.
The Office of District Attorney Flynn D. Broady, Jr. confirms the killer is William B. Rose of Mableton.
According to detectives, the third grader from Pine Forest Elementary School was walking home from the laundromat when she was abducted, raped and strangled to death. The laundromat was only a half block away, and the only clue was spilled detergent across the street from her home. Various community groups organized a near-citywide search, including the Concerned Citizens Committee, a group of ham radio operators, and Cobb and Marietta Civil Defense workers. “Operation Debbie” garnered 4,000 volunteers to search for the missing girl.
On Jan. 29, 1972, her body was found by a group of Southern Tech students about 1,000 feet south of Windy Hill and Powers Ferry Road. Marietta Police detectives investigated and followed up on hundreds of leads without success.
The Cobb County Cold Case Unit received the case in 2015. Evidence recovered from the scene was sent for updated DNA analysis and searched in the Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS) without results. In the years that followed, with the advancement of genetic genealogy technology, additional efforts were made to review evidence and a SNP profile was developed. After many years, a familial DNA profile was found. The suspect’s body was exhumed, and DNA tests confirmed Williams B. Rose was responsible for the death of Debbie Lynn Randall. He was 24 at the time of the crime and committed suicide in 1974. Investigators confirmed that Rose had acquaintances who lived in the same complex as the victim.
“The loss of a loved one, especially one of such a tender age is difficult to comprehend. This family has waited for decades for an answer. This information will not replace the pain of losing Debbie Lynn. We are very grateful for the unwavering dedication, persistence and commitment from Det. Ron Alter of the Cold Case Unit and all our partner agencies to provide some closure to this case,” said Cobb District Attorney Flynn D. Broady, Jr. “The mission of our office is to deliver justice regardless of how much time has passed. In this case, the suspect took his own life two years after the death of the Debbie Lynn Randall.”
Both of Debbie Lynn’s parents died without an answer to her death. Her mother Juanita died of leukemia in 2018 and her father, John, passed away in January 2022.
The Cobb District Attorney's Office would like to acknowledge the following partners who have contributed to the investigation of this case:
Marietta Police Department – original detectives who worked the case - Bill Hutson (former Cobb Sheriff and former Lieutenant at MPD), Major Tim Buckley (retired and deceased), Captain Bill Elliott (deceased) and Lt. Ray Owens(deceased)
Cobb County Police Department
Morris Nix – retired Cobb Sheriff’s Office and Kennesaw Police Department
Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC)
The family of Debbie Lynn Randall
Georgia Bureau of Investigation
DNA Labs International
The Federal Bureau of Investigation
The family of William B. Rose
About the Cobb County Cold Case Unit*
Cobb County created a Cold Case Unit in March 2015 to focus on unsolved cases. In the first two years of operation, the unit solved nine cases, resulting in eight arrests and six criminal prosecutions. The Cobb District Attorney’s Office received additional funds through a Bureau of Justice federal grant in Oct. 2021. There is one investigator who oversees the work on more than 100 cases. The grant enabled us to retain an investigator in Feb. 2022 and helped solve this case. If you or anyone you know has a tip on a cold case, please call the Cobb County Cold Case Unit’s hotline at 770-528-3032.
About the Cobb County District Attorney’s Office
The mission of the Cobb District Attorney’s Office is to enhance public safety and community well-being by supporting victims, holding people who commit crimes accountable, and engaging the community to prevent harm. For additional information, please visit CobbDA.com.
*The Cobb County Cold Case Unit is supported by Grant No. 15PBJA-21-GG-04358-DNAX awarded by the Bureau of Justice, Prosecuting Cold Cases Using DNA initiative. The BJA is part of the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs, including the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.