The suspect in a 30-year-old cold case murder committed suicide days after learning that he'd been linked to the crime through fingerprint and DNA evidence, authorities said.
Robert Hathaway, 48, of Fairfield, Calif., hanged himself on Tuesday, four days after police interviewed him about the killing and collected a DNA sample, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Hathaway was a suspect in the Aug. 31, 1983 murder and sexual assault of 40-year-old Priscilla Strole. The victim's 15-year-old son found Strole's body at her home. Officers determined she had been beaten to death.
"She suffered numerous injuries to her face and head from kitchen knives, a can opener and a piece of decorative wood," police told the Chronicle. "All weapons used in the homicide were obtained from inside the house. The living room was in disarray and numerous items had been broken."
There were no signs of forced entry, indicating that Strole had let the assailant into the house. After the murder, the killer fled with jewelry and other valuables, according to police.
Police ran fingerprints and DNA from the crime scene through a new law enforcement database this year, and obtained a match for Hathaway, who was 17 at the time and a friend of the victim's son.
“He was never an investigative lead or person of interest until 2012,” Fairfield police Sgt. Troy Oviatt told Fox40.com.
Hathaway in 1986 was arrested for burglary and his prints were entered into a database. He denied any involvement when police detectives went to his home to serve a search warrant authorizing them to collect a confirmatory DNA sample, officials said.
“He was visibly nervous, began sweating profusely,” Oviatt said.
According to Fairfield police, Hathaway left behind a note acknowledging that he "took the coward way out."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.