Editorial from the Hearld…

…though I hear the Key family is not all that grateful.

Carrboro cracks a cold case

The Chapel Hill Herald

Sep 11, 2004 : 4:16 pm ET

Seven years is a long time. Much has happened in this community over the last seven years — large developments, more people, new schools, passionate debates, as well as a paralyzing ice storm, an overwhelming blizzard, an unprecedented drought and, yes, many crimes.

It would have been easy during the seven years to simply forget one crime among the many, one inexplicable case among the multitude that were never settled. But the Carrboro Police Department never did.

Ever since Deborah Leigh Key disappeared that night of Dec. 1, 1997, the Carrboro cops kept looking, kept trying, kept hoping. They never closed the book on the case.

Their efforts were rewarded this past week with the arrest of Andrew Douglas Dalzell for the murder of Key. The Carrboro police had, apparently, suspected Dalzell at the beginning of the case, but never had sufficient evidence to bring charges. This time, they got enough, thanks to the solid police work of Anthony Westbrook II, an investigator with the department.

Westbrook had gone to Dalzell’s Carrboro apartment because the now-27-year old suspect had requested police assistance for security reasons while he removed personal property in preparation for moving. At the apartment, Westbrook noticed an assortment of different hobbyist items.

Dalzell told Westbrook the items were from Hungate’s, the University Mall shop where he used to work. Westbrook didn’t let it lay there. Two days later, he called Hungate’s manager, who told him that Dalzell had been fired for taking money from the store safe. The manager suspected Dalzell of taking more items from the store.

Westbrook was able to obtain a search warrant for the apartment and there seized a number of items that allegedly had been taken from the Chapel Hill store.

From that evidence, police also apparently learned something that caused them to charge Dalzell with second-degree murder.

There is still, of course, much to be determined, including, naturally, Dalzell’s guilt or innocence. He has only been charged with the crime, and remains innocent until proven guilty. Key’s body has not yet been found and the police are not yet saying what exactly convinced them to bring the charges.

But for the first time in seven years, Key’s family and friends have hope that they will finally find out what happened on that December night so long ago. For the first time in seven years, they can truly hope for closure if not relief.

The Carrboro police have given them that hope.

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