WILLIAMSON COUNTY (KXAN) - A drug arrest may have helped crack a 1980 cold case murder in Williamson County.
Steven Alan Thomas, 53, was arrested and charged with capital murder in July, after investigators said his DNA matched DNA collected at the murder scene of Mildred McKinney, 73, back in 1980.
Thomas did have a criminal history, but had never committed a crime that required him to submit his DNA to the nationwide DNA database, until earlier this year when he was arrested on federal drug charges and indicted in March on a charge of conspiracy to distribute marijuana and possession of marijuana.
State law automatically requires a suspect to submit DNA if arrested for a federal felony crime. When Thomas' DNA went in to the database on those charges earlier this year, investigators say there was a match to DNA evidence collected on the bindings used to tie McKinney's wrists. They also said a fingerprint found at the scene matched Thomas as well.
In July, the lead investigator on the case, Williamson County Sgt. John Foster said he was confident he had the right man.
"We feel very strongly in this case. We definitely do have the right person. Mr. Thomas has been out there for 30+ years, living his life after he took the life of Mildred Mckinney," said Foster.
Thomas has denied any involvement in the McKinney murder and in an interview Monday with KXAN News, his parents said they do not believe he is guilty of the murder.
"I know what this sounds like. I know it sounds like a mother defending her child- I'm not that kind of mother," said Rita Thomas. "My son is a hell of a long way from being an angel- but he's even further away from being the monster they're portraying him."
Thomas said Steven got in to drugs when his marriage broke up- several years after the McKinney murder. She said he regretted getting involved in the drug case for which he was arrested earlier this year.
"This friend told him he could make some money if he would just drive a truck," said Thomas. "It was dumb, it was stupid, it was idiotic."
Thomas said she does not believe the DNA is a match and said her son is a kind man and a good father.
"He has a very loving, tender, generous heart," said Thomas. "This is not our boy- this is not Steven- they're not talking about Steven."
Investigators are equally convinced of Thomas' guilt. He is being held in the Williamson County jail on a one million dollar bond.
He is scheduled to be sentenced on the federal drug charges on September 6 in Corpus Christi.
A pre-trial hearing in the capital murder case is set for August 9 in Williamson County.
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