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News / Northwest

Oregon man sentenced to 50 years in the 1978 killing of a teenage girl in Alaska

By Associated Press
Published: April 26, 2024, 3:06pm

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Oregon man who was convicted in the 1978 killing of a 16-year-old girl in Alaska was sentenced Friday to 50 years in prison.

Donald McQuade, 67, told Superior Court Judge Andrew Peterson that he maintains his innocence and did not kill Shelley Connolly, the Anchorage Daily News reported. McQuade in December was convicted of murder in the death of Connolly, whose body was found near a highway pullout between Anchorage and Girdwood in 1978.

McQuade said he intends to appeal his conviction.

Years after Connolly’s death, investigators developed a DNA profile from swabs collected from her body, and in 2019 turned to genetic genealogy testing, which involves comparing a DNA profile to known profiles in genealogical databases to find people who share the same genetic information. DNA testing was used to show McQuade matched the DNA profile, with police in Oregon obtaining the DNA by collecting cigarette butts that McQuade had discarded in public.

There was no indication McQuade knew Connolly prior to her death, assistant attorney general Erin McCarthy wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

Prosecutors said the sentence provides some closure for friends and family. Connolly’s mother died before seeing a resolution.

Peterson acknowledged that any sentence would likely be a life sentence for McQuade. McQuade’s attorney, Benjamin Dresner, said he is in remission from advanced liver cancer. Dresner requested that McQuade receive the minimum sentence, or 20 years in prison.