Vanilla Coke Can Helps Crack 40-Year-Old Colorado Cold Case

In June 2022, David Dwayne Anderson was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal 1981 murder of 34-year-old Sylvia Quayle.

Updated on April 07, 2023
David Dwayne Anderson (left) and Sylvia Quayle (right) [via the Cherry Hills Village, Colorado Police Department]

David Dwayne Anderson (left) and Sylvia Quayle (right) [via the Cherry Hills Village, Colorado Police Department]

David Dwayne Anderson (left) and Sylvia Quayle (right) [via the Cherry Hills Village, Colorado Police Department]

By: Aaron Rasmussen

DNA collected from a Vanilla Coke can led to the arrest of a suspect accused of brutally attacking and murdering a woman in Colorado nearly four decades prior, police said.

On August 4, 1981, Sylvia Quayle’s nude body was discovered in her Cherry Hills Village home. Police said the 34-year-old victim had been sexually assaulted, strangled, stabbed in the heart and lungs, and shot in the head. She died from massive blood loss.

Investigators recovered 140 pieces of evidence from the scene and in 1995 sent a rug, which years before had been determined to contain foreign material, to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for DNA testing.

Five years later, in 2000, experts developed an unknown male DNA profile, but it wasn’t until investigators began working with a genetic research company United Data Connect that they had any luck moving the case forward.

The company took the sequenced DNA data gathered from the crime scene evidence and uploaded it to open-source websites Family Tree DNA and GEDmatch.

“We started to then get connected people that were related to the individual that we were looking for,” said the company’s co-founder, Mitch Morrissey, according to Denver’s KCNC-TV.

Morrisey explained researchers then had to narrow results from a massive extended family tree of connections totaling over 3,300 people down to just one.

At the beginning of 2021, investigators were able to identify the suspect they had been waiting almost 40 years to name: David Dwayne Anderson.

Detectives headed to then 62-year-old Anderson’s home in Cozad, Nebraska, and surreptitiously plucked two bags of trash Anderson had thrown out. Inside one was a Vanilla Coke can. It would be the key that cracked the cold case.

On January 29, 2021, DNA test results indicated genetic material from the can matched that on the rug from the murder scene, and police arrested Anderson 13 days later.

“I am proud to be able to tell Sylvia’s sister and brother-in-law that the men and women of our department have anticipated the opportunity to make this announcement for almost forty years,” Cherry Hills Village Police Chief Michelle Tovrea said after Anderson’s arrest, according to The Denver Post.

Tovrea noted that after so much time had passed there is now “a path moving forward to seek justice in her death.”

In June 2022, a jury convicted Anderson on two counts of first-degree murder. In August 2022, he was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

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