Police ID Marietta girl’s killer of 50+ years ago

Debbie Lynn Randall was murdered Jan. 13, 1972. A forensic investigation has identified her killer.
Nine-year-old Debbie Lynn Randall was abducted, raped and killed on Jan. 13, 1972, in Marietta.
Published: Sep. 18, 2023 at 9:53 AM EDT|Updated: Sep. 18, 2023 at 6:50 PM EDT
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MARIETTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - On Monday, Cobb County law enforcement officials revealed the identity of the man they believe is responsible for one of Marietta’s most notorious, violent murders, one that happened more than 50 years ago.

Nine-year-old Debbie Lynn Randall was abducted, raped and killed on Jan. 13, 1972, in Marietta. Her body was found more than two weeks later near Windy Hill and Powers Ferry Road.

On Monday, Cobb District Attorney Flynn Broady said William B. Rose of Mableton was the man who abducted Randall and killed her.

“We want to give special recognition to the Marietta Police Department who processed the crime scene and was proactive in recovering and maintaining the evidence,” Broady said.

Rose, who was 24 at the time of the crime, committed suicide in 1974, two years later. He was identified as the suspected killer, officials said Monday, through open-source ancestry sites to which law enforcement has access. Rose’s family, officials said, was cooperative with their investigation, and had no idea Rose was involved in the Randall’s abduction and death.

“Technology does not get old, it doesn’t retire, it doesn’t get sick, and it doesn’t quit. Technology was seeking William Rose and it found him in the grave,” Morris Nix, a cold case investigator, said.

Around 7 p.m. on January 13, 1972, the third grader from Pine Forest Elementary School went to the laundromat with her stepfather; he left soon after, but the laundromat was only half a block from her family’s apartment.

Rose has been identified as the killer of Debbie Lynn Randall, age 9, in 1972.
Rose has been identified as the killer of Debbie Lynn Randall, age 9, in 1972.(WANF)

Around 8:30 p.m., Randall’s mother became concerned. She went to the laundromat searching for her daughter, and an employee told her the girl had left about an hour before.

Spilled laundry detergent was found in a parking lot across the street from Randall’s home. Two youths reported seeing a dark pickup truck in the area and said it had quickly backed up to the area where the detergent was found and drove away quickly.

A near-citywide search was organized by various community groups including the Concerned Citizens Committee, a group of ham radio operators and Cobb and Marietta civil defense workers. “Operation Debbie” garnered 4,000 volunteers to search for the missing girl. Her body was found on Jan. 29, 1972, by a group of Southern Tech students.

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The Cobb County Cold Case Unit received the case in 2015. Evidence recovered from the scene was sent for updated DNA analysis with no results.

Years later, officials said Monday, a familial DNA profile was found. The suspect’s body was exhumed, and DNA tests confirmed Rose was responsible for Randall’s death, Broady said. Police confirmed Rose had acquaintances who lived in the same complex as Randall.

“The loss of a loved one, especially one of such a tender age is difficult to comprehend. This family has waited for decades for an answer,” Broady said. “This information will not replace the pain of losing Debbie Lynn.”

Both of Randall’s parents died without knowing who killed their daughter. Her mother, Juanita, died of leukemia in 2018 and her father, John, died in January 2022. Her brother, Melvin Randall, said he’s glad the case has been solved and he forgives the killer. He also had a message for the family of William B. Rose.

“I want them to know I have no animosity toward them or hatred and I wish them all the best and we’ll be praying for them too,” Melvin Randall said.

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