Another 26-Year-Old Murder Case Solved With the Help of DNA Evidence in Texas

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Back on April 19, I wrote this story about a 25-year-old murder case involving a college coed, Kristin Smart, that had been solved with the arrest of a man who had always been the only suspect in the case. At the time of Smart’s disappearance, Paul Flores was the last person to see her alive and he offered some implausible versions of events for hours and days following her disappearance. But Smart’s body has never been found, and there was never any physical evidence that linked Flores to Smart’s death.

I knew quite a bit about the Smart case back in the day, and the reporting on Flores’ arrest led me to discover this remarkable podcast on the case, “Your Own Backyard.” Police in San Luis Obispo, California, attributed the discovery of new evidence in the 25-year-old disappearance to the renewed public interest in Smart’s disappearance generated by the podcast.

Police and prosecutors in Beaumont, Texas, announced last week they had solved another, quarter-century-old “cold case” rape and murder of Marie Catherine Edwards with the arrest of Clayton Bernard Foreman. There was no break in this case in the form of increased attention via a podcast or other publicity. Officials in Texas were able to identify Foreman as the murderer based on the increasing depth and sophistication of DNA matching that is resulting from an ever-increasing number of DNA profiles being stored in various databases.

Ms. Edwards was a popular, 31-year-old teacher in Beaumont in 1995, when she was murdered. She was found in her bathtub, having been drowned after being raped.

The police recovered biological evidence from the crime scene and, in 2006, the Beaumont Police Department spent $10,000 on a Maryland laboratory’s unsuccessful attempt to match the DNA evidence to a suspect.

But, as is often the situation with “cold cases” that fade from public view, the law enforcement agencies in Texas did not give up on the Edwards case, The Beaumont Enterprise reported:

When Jefferson County District Attorney Bob Wortham took office in 2014, he asked police to renew efforts in the case.

“The very first day I was sworn in as district attorney, I called (Beaumont Police Chief James) Singletary and asked him to put some people on the Edwards case because it was such a terrible set of facts,” Wortham told The Enterprise. “I really wanted to find a way to solve that case.”

In 2020, Beaumont Police entered the DNA profile they had from the crime scene in a public DNA database, GEDmatch. Information from the entry created links to second cousins of the perpetrator — still unknown at that point — that gave the investigators a “family tree” of possible suspects on both the maternal and paternal side of the DNA profile of the killer. From there, police were able to consider and narrow the field of possible suspects through the process of elimination.

Police were able to obtain voluntary DNA samples from several people in the family tree which allowed them to further narrow the profile, and they eventually settled on two suspects — Clayton Foreman and his brother.

The brother did not have a criminal record, but Foreman had been arrested and convicted in a similar case in 1981, just after graduating from high school.

Police in Cincinnati, where Foreman was living, worked with the Beaumont Police to pull a “trash dump” where they obtained garbage that Foreman had put out on the street for collection. From the garbage, they were able to secure certain personal items that contained DNA evidence. Using those samples, the police were able to make a definitive match of Foreman to the DNA evidence found at the scene of Edwards’ murder.

Foreman is now in custody in Ohio, awaiting extradition to Texas on capital murder charges, for which he could receive the death penalty.

As it turns out, Foreman and Edwards knew each other — Edwards had been a bridesmaid in the wedding of Foreman to his first wife.