Cobb County District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit solves homicide from 1972

For more than 50 years, the mystery of who killed nine-year-old Debbie Lynn Randall has haunted investigators and troubled the community.

She was reported missing on Jan. 13, 1972, when she failed to come home from the nearby laundromat. On Monday, District Attorney Flynn D. Broady Jr.’s office identified William B. Rose of Mableton as the suspected killer.

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. A near-citywide search was organized by various community groups, 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.

Her body was found on Jan. 29, 1972, 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 authorities said DNA tests confirmed Rose was responsible for Randall’s death. 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.

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, died in January 2022.

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