Police Use DNA To Identify Alleged Serial Killer Responsible For Deaths Of Four Women
Four families have answers after cutting-edge technology linked Joe Michael Ervin to fatal stabbings in the Denver area.
The four victims of alleged serial killer Joe Michael Ervin. Clockwise from upper left: Delores Barajas, Gwendolyn Harris, Madeleine Livaudais, Antoinette Parkes
Joe Michael Ervin may have believed he had gotten away with his crimes in the five months after he stabbed a pregnant teenager to death in January 1981.
His freedom came to an end on June 27, 1981, when he was pulled over by an Aurora, Colorado police officer. The 26-year-old officer, Debra Sue Corr, had been on the job just a year when she attempted to arrest Ervin for a traffic violation. Ervin managed to overpower the officer and shoot her with her service weapon.
As Corr lay dying in the street, a member of the Aurora Police Department’s Junior Explorer program was driving by and stopped to help. Ervin shot the 19-year-old in the back and fled the scene.
According to The Denver Post, police arrested Ervin that day at his home as he was attempting to saw Corr’s handcuffs off his wrist.
On July 1, just four days after his arrest, Ervin died by suicide in his jail cell.
It took 40 years before police discovered that Corr wasn’t Ervin’s only victim, she was just the last.
Ervin committed his first murder on December 7, 1978, when he killed Madeleine Furey-Livaudais at her home in northeast Denver. According to The Denver Post, 33-year-old Furey-Livaudais was feeding her children breakfast when Ervin entered her home and attacked her.
Delores Barajas was Ervin’s oldest victim at 53 years old. She was spending the summer with family in Colorado and working a hotel job, according to The Denver Post. She was walking to her last day of work on August 10, 1980, when Ervin attacked her. Her body was found on East 17th Street in Denver.
Ervin struck again just four months later when he stabbed 27-year-old Gwendolyn Harris on Christmas Eve. Her body was found a block away from the home where Ervin lived at the time.
On January 24, 1981, he stabbed Antoinette Parks, a pregnant 17-year-old who was working at Denny’s. She was the only victim not killed within the Denver city limits—her death occurred several miles north of downtown.
The cases were believed to be separate instances until 2013 when DNA evidence linked the four cold cases together, according to the Associated Press. Authorities realized the cases had a common but unknown suspect, and genetic genealogy allowed them to zero in on Ervin. The man was exhumed from his Texas grave in late 2021 and testing linked him to the killings.
Police in Colorado used genetic genealogy to solve two other cold cases in May 2021 when they linked Alan Lee Phillips to the murder of two women near Breckenridge, Colorado, in 1982.