DNA evidence links father to cold case butter knife killings of son and daughter: Police


Karen Alexander, left, and Gordon Alexander (Photos from Justice for Karen and Gordon Alexander Facebook page)

Karen Alexander, left, and Gordon Alexander (Photos from Justice for Karen and Gordon Alexander Facebook page)

DNA evidence from semen and blood linked a man to the sexual assault and murder of his teenage daughter, who was killed with a butter knife and her brother more than four decades ago in their Arkansas home.

In a news conference this week, authorities named Weldon Alexander as the suspect in the 1981 cold-case slayings of his children, 13-year-old Gordon and Karen Alexander, 14, but he will elude justice. He died in 2014.

Had he been alive, Weldon Alexander would have faced two counts of capital murder.

“I cannot issue warrants for an individual who’s deceased,” Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell said in a news conference. “So, unfortunately, there will be no avenue that the prosecutor’s office has to take against Mr. Alexander.”

Calvin Seward, a retired Texarkana officer who worked the case over the years and is credited with solving it, said he thinks the father killed his children when his daughter tried to resist his sexual assault, and her brother heard it.

“It just got out of hand,” he said at the news conference.

The father called the police back then, reporting the horrifying discovery after he said he arrived home from his graveyard shift at Cooper Tire around 7:15 a.m. on Wednesday, April 8, 1981.

He told police the screen and front doors were ajar. He found his son dead in the kitchen. He said his daughter was still alive on her bed, and he had removed a kitchen knife from her body before officers arrived at 7:24 a.m.

Officers found Gordon dead in the kitchen. Karen lay face up on a bed in the living room. She was still breathing but was suffering from “extensive sharp instrument trauma” and was taken to a hospital where she died.

At the time of the killings, their mother, Vera Alexander, had been in a hospital, admitted as a patient for mental health issues since the weekend before the murders, authorities said. She killed herself three years later.

Detectives examined evidence, identified witnesses, and followed leads, but the case went cold.

In 1983, Henry Lee Lucas, an inmate in Texas, confessed to hundreds of the country’s unsolved murders, including the Alexander homicides. But the lead evaporated. DNA tests decades later proved he lied in many confessions, including the Alexander case, officials said.

Then, Seward, a patrol officer in his early 30s when the murders occurred, started working the case, and he never gave up even after retiring from the department and then retiring again after a second career with the U.S. Marshals Service.

In February 2022, Seward was given full autonomy to reopen the case and follow any lead to its end.

Over the next 18 months, Seward interviewed and re-interviewed dozens of people, sent DNA profiles to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and submitted evidence to a lab for processing.

That year, DNA tests linked semen on Karen’s bedding to her father, authorities said. New evidence provided a new timeline, officials said.

A review of information from one of the first detectives to arrive at the crime scene found that Gordon’s body had been cold to the touch when police officers arrived. The new evidence suggested the children were assaulted before their father left for work around 11 the previous night.

Investigators also learned that there had been no sign of forced entry at the home, and Weldon Alexander was the last person to see Gordon and Karen alive. The children were in the same clothes they had been wearing the previous day, police said.

Officials said more pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place when an autopsy revealed that Karen had been vaginally penetrated between 48 and 72 hours before her death.

Police said trace evidence found in dried blood on Gordon’s hands and Karen’s body contained “fibers, brass, copper, and zinc, all used to construct tires at Copper Tire and Rubber.”

In a news conference, Seward said the hard work paid off.

“There’s nothing that feels even better to me than to bring it to closure,” he said. “It’s resolved in my mind. So it’s a great feeling. And I hope that it brings some closure to a lot of people.”

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