Nearly 40 years later, DNA leads to arrest in rape and murder of newlywed Debra Sue Reiding

DNA technology has led to an arrest in a cold case rape and murder that took place nearly 40 years ago.

64-year-old Michael Galvan has been charged with one count each of capital murder and murder in the death of Debra Sue Reiding, an 18-year-old newlywed who was killed in her Austin, Texas, apartment in 1979, Fox 7 Austin reports. The woman’s husband found her body in bed with a pillow over her head, according to police.

Although Galvan had always been a suspect in Reiding’s murder, Austin police didn’t have enough evidence to make an arrest, according to the media outlet.

The alleged killer was linked to the crime after a DNA test performed last year revealed his DNA was found on a semen-stained robe Reiding wore at the time she was killed, KXAN reports.

Reiding’s younger brother, Rodney Wilt, dedicated his life to his sister’s case.

“I’ve always known the person of interest needed to be pursued,” Wilt told KXAN.

“After I’ve worked on this for so many years, it’s just now finally starting to sink in that it might actually be coming to a close,” he continued. “My whole life has been dedicated to getting to the bottom of this and letting my sister rest in peace.”

Galvan and Reiding were co-workers at an Austin restaurant, Montana Mining Company, and Galvan often gave the victim, who worked as a hostess, rides home after work. Galvan reportedly quit the job after he found employment at another restaurant a week before the murder.

The day after Reiding was murdered, Galvan said he didn’t know the victim and had never been in her apartment, though detectives discovered he had in fact been there at least twice, KXAN reports, citing an affidavit for a search warrant.

Reiding’s husband found her body in bed, under the covers with a pillow over her head, police said. 

Before his arrest, Galvan worked for several years as a barber in Austin, KVUE reports, adding that he had suddenly left the barbershop the day he was arrested. 

Galvan has been booked into the Travis County Jail in lieu of a bond set at $750,000.

[Feature photo: Austin Police Department]