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Published On: Fri, Nov 3rd, 2017

Janie Landers 1979 murder case solved: DNA analysis links to dead, convicted rapist, murderer Gerald Dunlap

An Oregon State Police detective was finally able to provide closure to a 1979 cold case, the murder of Janie Landers, the 18-year-old Salem woman who went missing on March 9, 1979.

On March 14, Landers’ body body was discovered in a field, with deep stab wounds on her neck and defensive wounds all over her body. An autopsy showed the teen, who functioned at the level of an 8-year-old, died of blunt force trauma to the head.

Janie Landers

There were no suspects then or when the case was re-opened 2001.

Det. Steve Hinkle, a member of Oregon State Police Department’s Major Crimes Section, led the re-investigation and stated “It needed to be solved.”“It’s a vulnerable young girl that got murdered for no reason, and somebody did it. Somebody needed to be held accountable.”

Landers’ younger sister, Joyce Hooper, urged state police to reopen the case in March 2015, the 36th anniversary of Landers’ murder.Hinkle and his team noticed there were no abrasion marks to indicate the knife had a handle. They figured the perpetrator must’ve cut himself – leaving behind his DNA.

Landers’ blood-stained shirt that was still in evidence and got a positive hit through the FBI’s database. “Janie fought very hard,” Hinkle said. “Probably unexpectedly due to her very small stature, but she was a fighter.”

It belonged to convicted rapist Gerald Dunlap, who worked in Fairview’s laundry room.
The four witnesses worked with a Statesman Journal employee, who drew a composite sketch of the man, and the result is a match.

Dunlap’s DNA was in the system for his 1996 conviction on first-degree sex abuse charges of a minor female family member. He was sentenced to prison.

He’d been given a 99-year prison sentence for a 1961 rape in Tennessee but was paroled in 1973 — six years before killing Landers.

Dunlap died behind bars in January 2002. But even though he wasn’t brought to justice, Landers’ family says knowing who was behind the teen’s death was enough for them to finally move on.

“Final closure would have been seeing him convicted of her murder. But how I try to look at is: he died in prison. He wasn’t out there hurting anyone else,” Hooper said.

“I’m really grateful and relieved that it’s done,” said Hooper. “She can be totally at peace March 9, 1979. now because her case is solved.”

About the Author

- Catherine "Kaye" Wonderhouse, a proud descendant of the Wunderhaus family is the Colorado Correspondent who will add more coverage, interviews and reports from this midwest area.

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