In July 1987, Donna Sue Hyatt was found deceased at her residence. The investigation conducted by the Carlsbad Police Department later determined she had been sexually assaulted and murdered. Before her death, witnesses advised officers they had seen Donna with a tall, Caucasian male, leaving a nearby store on foot. Investigative leads were thoroughly followed up on, but eventually the investigation stalled and the murder has gone unsolved since 1987.
Detective Joey Landgraf and Detective Tim Nyce, with the Carlsbad Police Department, began reviewing the cold homicide case 36 years later. They were able to utilize new investigative techniques that could help identify a potential suspect. Crime scene evidence was sent to Othram where Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® was used to build a comprehensive DNA profile for an unknown male suspect. The DNA profile was used by the FBI's forensic genetic genealogy team to develop investigative leads.
During the follow up investigation, Detective Landgraf and Detective Nyce identified Michael Ruff Wigley as a person of interest. They also learned Michael Ruff Wigley was investigated in the early 1980’s for two separate incidents of sexual assault cases in central Texas. Wigley was charged and convicted in one of those incidents in Texas and was consequently sentenced to prison. Detectives eventually discovered after Wigley was released from prison he passed away in a traffic accident in 1989.
Upon compiling new evidentiary information, in conjunction with the existing case evidence, Detective Landgraf and Detective Nyce identified Wigley as the prime suspect. As a result, a search warrant for Wigley's exhumation and DNA collection was obtained. Working closely with law enforcement in Amarillo, Texas, the Carlsbad Detectives executed the search warrant in Texas. The execution of this search warrant allowed for the crucial and essential collection of Wigley’s DNA which was later provided to Othram for KinSNP® testing. That testing positively and definitively identified Wigley as the suspect responsible for taking the life of Donna Sue Hyatt in July 1987. Additionally, the detective conducted interviews with involved parties, witnesses and family members which helped confirm that Michael Ruff Wigley was present and staying in Carlsbad, New Mexico, during the same time of Donna Sue Hyatt’s sexual assault and murder.
Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway thanked members of the Carlsbad Police Department for working hard to resolve this case, especially Detective Joey Landgraf and Detective Tim Nyce. To support the investigation, the City of Carlsbad was willing to help fund the private expert testing of DNA samples and exhumation of the primary suspect’s body in order to obtain a current DNA sample for further expert comparison and testing. Othram is grateful for the support of the City of Carlsbad.
“We would also like to recognize the officers and detectives from 1987 who responded to the residence that tragic night. Their diligent work and dedication to the crime scene integrity and collection of potential evidence proved to be the difference in making it possible for officers to bring resolution to this case nearly four decades later. This case is a true testimony of the fact that justice can prevail through the hard work and dedication of our officers and our community,” Janway said. “It is our sincere hope that the recent efforts, and the efforts of those involved in 1987, can bring some small form of peace and closure to the family of Donna Sue Hyatt and the community of Carlsbad.”
The Carlsbad Police Department and the City of Carlsbad sincerely thank everyone involved in investigating this case and everyone who helped provide information and testimony, as it was only through these efforts that these agencies were able to announce this resolution.