Capt. Joel McNelly, CMPD’s Violent Crimes Division commander, said during a recent press conference that James Thomas Pratt, 60, has been arrested in connection with the murders.
To identify Pratt as a suspect, CMPD’s Cold Case Unit said they used new familial DNA technology, which matches DNA collected at a crime scene to an entire genealogical family line and then, through investigative means, narrows down a pool of potential persons of interest whose biographies fit the facts in a case. McNelly said this was the first time this technology was used to solve a murder in North Carolina.
At the time of the murders, Pratt was nearly 22 years old and police did not consider him a suspect in the original investigation. However, he did live in the neighborhood and he was thought to have a “friendly relationship” with Hall, McNelly said.
Police did not comment on how they collected DNA from Pratt and they are still working to determine a possible motive in the case.
While Hall’s parents died before a suspect was arrested for the cold case murders, police notified the slain woman's surviving siblings of Pratt’s arrest.
“I carried a burden for years because I felt like I should have been with her. It would have never happened if I was with her,” Mary Dae said of her sister and nephew's killings, The Charlotte Observer reported.
- Iowa teen's mom told police she knew who killed her daughter. Fifty years later, police confirmed she was correct.
- DNA Identifies Suspect in 51-Year-Old Cold Case Murder of Georgia Girl; Deceased Accused Killer 'Must Answer to a Higher Power': Prosecutors
- A young mom was murdered in her Florida home in 1985. Police say they just solved the cold case.
Never miss a story — sign up for the Front Page Detectives newsletter. Be on the scene the moment news breaks.
Police Chief Johnny Jennings, one of the original investigators on the case, said in a video statement that solving what happened to the mother and son "really tugged at me" during the many years he's worked on it.
"I should be retired somewhere getting a phone call that they solved this case," he said, "but I’m still working with CMPD, and we were able to bring closure to this case, and to be able to see that through as chief of police is just amazing."
Become a Front Page Detective
Sign up to receive breaking
Front Page Detectives
news and exclusive investigations.