CONCORD, N.H. – New Hampshire's Cold Case Unit said Wednesday it has solved its oldest crime, the 52-year-old shooting death of an auto repair shop worker, and said the man who did it killed himself years later.
On Sept. 1, 1966, Everett Delano, 49, was shot three times in the head while working at Sanborn's Garage in Andover. Money was missing from the cash drawer. A bathroom sink faucet was left running. Investigators found fingerprints, which they preserved. Photos of the prints were sent to FBI. But after an extensive investigation, the case stalled.
The cold case unit reopened the Delano case in 2013 after being contacted by his daughter, Darlene Delano. Its report released through the attorney general's office said the case hadn't been identified when the unit was organized in 2009.
"There was a very long time our family didn't know if we would ever receive the answers about what happened that day," Darlene Delano said in a statement on behalf of the family. "Today, our family has the long overdue answers we have been waiting for."
During their review, investigators discovered that the fingerprints hadn't been entered into the FBI's Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which wasn't fully operational in 1966. New Hampshire's state police forensic laboratory began using the database in 1998.
The prints identified a match in 2013: Thomas Cass, 67, of Orleans, Vermont. Cass, who was 20 in 1966, had a criminal record, including convictions for robbery, assault, escape, theft, and burglary, in Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
The report said Cass denied any knowledge of the Delano case when investigators first visited him that year, but he voluntarily provided a DNA sample.
The report said in February 2014, investigators saw Cass again and told him that forensic evidence had been found that linked him to Delano's murder. They didn't tell him what it was. Cass said he had never been to Sanborn's Garage and requested a lawyer. Immediately after the interview, police conducted a search warrant at his home. No weapons were found.
Four days later, investigators learned that Cass had died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. A woman he lived with had called 911, saying he believed that police were coming to arrest him in relation to a cold case investigation.
She told police that after they first visited in 2013, Cass had changed his will to make her the beneficiary of her estate. She also said after he had been accused of the crime, he told her he didn't do it, but also said, "you never talk about something that has no statute of limitations." She also said Cass had made comments about never going back to prison.
"The evidence derived from this investigation, and all of the reasonable inferences that can be taken from that evidence, establish beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Cass shot and killed Mr. Delano," the report said.