By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – A man arrested in the 40-year-old murder of a young Shrewsbury woman was questioned in the initial investigation, according to District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr., but without evidence linking him to the crime, he was never charged.
Now, DNA evidence that was unavailable in 1974 has resulted in his identification and subsequent arrest. Lonzo Guthrie, 69, of Austell, Ga., was living in Worcester at the time, and had delivered furniture to the home of victim Eileen B. (Daniel) Ferro the day before she was brutally murdered, the District Attorney said in a statement.
Ferro's body was discovered stabbed to death in her home at 30 Ladyslipper Drive by her husband Anthony Ferro Feb. 22, 1974. She was 21.
The forensic evidence was preserved, and as DNA science evolved, the material was re-submitted for testing and a positive match was found.
“This arrest is a combination of advanced technology and dogged police work,” Early said. “We have been working on this case and other unresolved homicides since I took office.”
Early said he has put a priority on unresolved homicides and seeing if advanced science can be applied to forensic evidence gathered at crime scenes. He formed the Unresolved Case Squad seven years ago, comprised of Massachusetts State Police officers and the Worcester District Attorney's office.
Guthrie was arrested Feb. 4 by two State Police detectives assigned to the District Attorney's Office and police in Georgia. He is being held without bail on a fugitive from justice charge after being arraigned in Douglas County.
A warrant was issued out of Westborough District Court Jan. 31 charging Guthrie with the murder of Ferro. Guthrie had been convicted of rape in California later in 1974 and was a registered sex offender in Douglas County, Ga., where he had been living for more than a decade.
Early praised the State Police detectives assigned his office as well as Shrewsbury Police, the Douglas County (Ga.) Sheriff's Office and the Office of Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey for the investigation and arrest of Guthrie.
“We wanted justice for Eileen Ferro and, after all these years, closure for her family,” Early said.
Ferro's older sister Nancy Donnelly of North Brookfield said she has been amazed by the recent developments in the case.
“It's been such an overwhelming thing,” she said. “You just can's imagine.
She has been waiting almost exactly 40 years since her sister's murder for the news. The arrest came just a day after Ferro would have celebrated her 61st birthday Feb. 3.
“I give such credit to those people,” Donnelly said of the police and District Attorney's office.
With Guthrie fighting extradition to Massachusetts, Donnelly said she does not think the case “will be resolved any time soon – but at least we know.”
She also maintained that she thinks this is “just the beginning” of what police may find out about Guthrie, adding that she would not be surprised if he is linked to other unsolved murders that took place in Worcester and Shrewsbury around the time of her sister's murder.