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Woman found murdered in 1978, known for decades as 'Granby Girl', is finally identified

Patricia Ann Tucker in an undated photograph
Office of Northwestern District Attorney
Patricia Ann Tucker in an undated photograph

Patricia Ann Tucker was 28 and a mother

An almost half-century old mystery in western Massachusetts has been partly solved. Authorities now know the name of a previously unidentified murder victim. They hope the public can provide leads to a killer.

For 45 years, the woman whose skeletal remains had been found on a logging road in Granby with a bullet hole in the temple was known only as “Granby Girl.” Authorities on Monday announced that because of cutting edge DNA technology and old-fashioned detective work the identity of the murder victim is now finally known.

“Granby Girl” is Patricia Ann Tucker. She was 28-years-old when she was killed in the summer of 1978.

“The investigation into Patricia’s murder remains as active and ongoing as it has been in decades,” said Steven Gagne, the lead prosecutor in the Northwestern District Attorney’s office.

He said although the victim has now been positively identified, the identity of the killer has yet to be determined.

“At this stage, we do not yet formally have probable cause to charge anyone with Patricia’s murder,” Gagne said. “Our hope in holding this press conference is to bring renewed attention to this case and hopefully trigger some additional leads in this investigation.”

At the time of her death in 1978, Tucker was married to Gerald Coleman and they lived along the eastern shore of Lake Pocotopaug in East Hampton, Connecticut. Coleman never reported his wife missing. He died in 1996 in a Massachusetts state prison. He had been convicted of violent crimes including rape.

“Gerald Coleman, although deceased, is certainly, at a minimum, a person of strong interest in Patricia’s disappearance and death,” Gagne said.

Several photographs of Coleman at various ages of his life were shown at Monday’s press conference.

“We’re asking anyone who knew him to contact the authorities because any detail no matter how seemingly small and insignificant could help,” Gagne said.

Gagne said investigators hope to locate a woman named Laura Holmes, who may have been the last person to see Tucker alive. On August 8, 1978, Tucker left her 5-year-old son with Holmes, who at the time was living at 8 Taylor Street in Chicopee. Coleman was with Tucker. A few days passed, and when Tucker did not come back for her son, Holmes alerted child welfare authorities who later placed the boy with his biological father.

The son, Matthew Dale, now lives in North Carolina. Police contacted him in January to tell him that because of family DNA in the Ancestry.com database they now know the fate of his mother.

Dale issued a written statement thanking investigators and the community of Granby.

Granby Police Chief Kevin O’Grady said detectives never quit on the cold case and now have a new sense of urgency.

“Our condolences go out to Miss Tucker’s son and their family,” O’Grady said. “I want them to know we will continue to work on this case and work toward finding out who murdered Miss Tucker.”

Patricia Ann Tucker is buried in West Cemetery in Granby. Her grave was initially marked with a wood cross. In 1998, townspeople raised $500 for a permanent stone marker. It reads: “Unknown, Nov. 15, 1978. In God’s care.”

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.