Gulfport police help solve 42-year-old cold case murder - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Gulfport police help solve 42-year-old cold case murder

Delores Gonzales near the time of her disappearance. (Photo source: charleyproject.org) Delores Gonzales near the time of her disappearance. (Photo source: charleyproject.org)
GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) -

DNA testing and persistent police work led to the positive identification of a young Gulfport woman who went missing back in 1973.

Not only have the remains of Delores Diane Gonzales been identified in Choctaw County, AL, but police also say it was her husband who committed the murder.

It's a story that involves DNA technology, social media postings and a group of investigators who happen to enjoy the challenge of working cold cases.

“We get together every two months or so, and we discuss cold cases,” said Gulfport Detective Frank Mazzola. “One of the investigators for Harrison County contacted me about social media. Somebody had brought up the Delores Gonzales case, and he wanted to know if I knew anything about it.”

So began the process where Mazzola would learn everything about the 42 year-old case: A missing 17-year-old mother of two in Gulfport. A mysterious skeleton discovered in Butler, AL, one year later.

“I took all those notes and started going back and interviewing all the people that were involved in the 70s. Started looking at a timeline into her last day. I got an idea where she went missing from, who were the last people to see her and what was said in the hours after what happened was done,” said Mazzola at a Thursday afternoon news conference at the Gulfport Police Department.

Delores Gonzales, known by many in Gulfport as Delores Kelly, was on her way to work at the old Raquet Club Apartments when she went missing. She was last seen near the Shipley Doughnuts shop at Hewes and Pass Road. It was the day before her second anniversary.

Her husband, Robert Gonzales, was questioned, but never charged.

“We had a lot of evidence. We had a lot of information. We couldn't connect 'em,” said Mazzola. “He was looked at and questioned at the time.”

DNA is what eventually led to the positive ID. DNA from the bones in Alabama and DNA taken from the victim's relatives in Gulfport.

Technology provided the ID, and police interviews led them back to the killer.

“I went ahead and located three witnesses that came forward. Basically, they advised that the suspect had confided in them that he had committed the murder and placed her in the woods,” said Mazzola.

Robert Gonzales won't be prosecuted for the murder. He died in 2007.

As for the relatives of the victim, they are relieved at the closure on this cold case and want to bring her remains back to Gulfport for a proper burial.

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