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Debra Sue Reiding (Photo: Courtesy of the Austin Police Department)

The 18-year-old newlywed had moved to the city of Austin from Montana. It was just supposed to be for a few months, a temporary stay. She worked at a local restaurant as a hostess and shared an apartment with her husband. But within just a few weeks of arriving in the city, she was raped and strangled in her own bed.

A coworker of Debra Sue Reiding’s at the Montana Mining Company bar and restaurant was a person of interest almost immediately. He regularly drove her home, and had visited the apartment before.

But in 1979, there was not enough evidence to prove a case against Michael Anthony Galvan, then in his 20s and working as a bartender.

That changed last week with Galvan’s grand jury indictment for the Jan. 22, 1979 rape and murder of Reiding. The latest development was based on the Austin Police Department Cold Case Unit’s latest DNA analysis to positively link him to the crime, according to the authorities.

Galvan, now 64, is charged with a count each of capital murder and murder for the death of Reiding. He remains in the Travis County Jail on $750,000 bond.

“DNA technology is ever-advancing – even within the last two years, there have been changes,” said Det. Jeff Gabler, of the APD. “It’s led us to the point where we’re able to present the case and… where we are today.”

Gabler spoke to Forensic Magazine in a brief interview.

Galvan was a person of interest from the second day of the investigation – when police arrived at the Montana Mining Company restaurant, the detective said. Galvan, who had worked as a bartender at the restaurant, had initially told police he did not know Reiding – and had never been in her apartment, according to his first interview. (The husband, on the other hand, complied with all tests and requests from investigators).

Multiple attempts to test the DNA started in the 1990s, with DQ Alpha testing. STR PCR analysis was tried in 2001, which resulted in a mixture with three contributors. But no arrest warrants were issued either time.

Gabler was assigned the case as part of the APD’s Cold Case Unit in 2013. The same year the Texas Department of Public Safety found the evidence in the case was suitable for further DNA testing. Shortly thereafter, Austin detectives surreptitiously collected toothpicks Galvan had used, leading to the direct DNA comparison last year – and this month’s indictment.

The latest sample testing involved using ThermoFisher's AmpFℓSTR MiniFiler for PCR amplification, Gabler said.

Further mixture analysis reinterpretation was also performed in 2016, which only strengthened the likelihood of Galvan’s semen matching the trace evidence on the robe Reiding was wearing at the time of the fatal attack, Gabler said.

In the ensuing 39 years since the Reiding slaying, Galvan remained in Austin and worked as a barber, according to police.

The APD and the Travis County District Attorney’s Office together say that more than 20 prosecutors and detectives are working 190 cases – and 28 have been “solved.”

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