Advances in DNA technology have brought a 30-year-old cold case in Marquette County, Michigan, back to life and pinpoint a Conway resident as the possible killer.
Paul Ernest Girard was 34 years old when he was stabbed "approximately 64 times" in the back, chest and face in 1988, according to an autopsy report, which notes the 34-year-old's "most significant injuries are to the anterior neck."
The 34-year-old was found stabbed to death at a gravesite near Peter White Drive on Presque Isle in Marquette, Michigan, at 10:14 a.m. Sept. 30, 1988. Marquette Police Department officials say several items including the victim's watch, wallet and car keys were also reportedly stolen when he was brutally murdered.
Girard was last seen at a restaurant -- the Big Boy -- the night he was murdered. A Conway man who would have been 31 years old at the time Girard was killed was in Marquette, Michigan, in September 1988. An old photo, according to a recently filed search warrant affidavit, also places him inside the Big Boy restaurant the night of Girard's death.
The suspect was working for a crew who planted trees. The company was planting trees off of County Road 510 when Girard's murder first came to light, according to other employees. Online records show the suspect's then-boss told authorities soon after learning of Girard's murder that she suspected one of her employees, noting he "displayed rather odd, strange an inappropriate behavior from time-to-time" and that he did not show up for work the week of Sept. 30, 1988.
In a 1988 interview with Marquette police, the woman said the suspect reportedly told another employee he was out "killing people, [because] I don't like them anyway" when asked where he'd been over the past week when he'd returned to work.
When police initially questioned the Conway resident in October 1988, he said he had stopped by the Big Boy on the night in question. However, he also said he went to a local bar "to score some pot" that night.
"[The Conway man] said he stayed up until almost closing time before he could buy some pot," according to a detective's notes, adding that the suspect told authorities he went to the Big Boy to eat that night but ultimately returned to his campsite off County Road 510 by the end of the night.
According to the Oct. 20, 1988, interview with the Conway man who was working in Michigan at the time Girard was murdered, the now 61-year-old man did not have a watch and told police he usually woke up around 4 a.m. to collect his thoughts before heading into work. Authorities also questioned him regarding the statement he'd made about killing others when talking with his coworkers, according to the search warrant affidavit requesting DNA evidence that was filed in Faulkner County Circuit Court in late August by Marquette police.
"In reference to his remarks of cutting people, [the suspect] advised that he works very hard as a tree planter and gets so involved with his work that he sometimes forgets to eat properly so consequently he works very hard for a couple of days and then will take a couple of days to relax and be away from people," the affidavit reads in part. "[The Conway man] said he did not like people asking him where he had been over the last week or so when he left the job site. This is why he replied with the off-the-wall remark of cutting people."
During his 1988 questioning, the Conway man told Marquette, Michigan, police he had a knife he carried with him, noting "he'd been using it as a multi-purpose tool." The officer who spoke with him reported the tip of the knife the Conway man showed him was "broken and extremely dull."
On May 9, 2018, Michigan police began questioning those who previously were interviewed regarding Girard's death back in 1988.
After speaking with the Conway man's former boss and the foreman of the group who was planting trees in Marquette, Michigan, back in September 1988, police learned the suspect "did not like homosexual people or Mexicans."
Investigators also noted in the affidavit and past records of the 1988 Michigan murder also state the victim was gay.
When speaking to authorities in May about her ex-employee, the suspect's former boss told police she thought her encounter with the Conway man was strange when he came to pick up his check after not showing up to work for a week.
"She advised [the suspect] had no hard feelings that she reported him to the police," the affidavit reads in part. "She said [the Conway man] was surprisingly pleasant, not one nasty word. She stated [the suspect] had anger issues ... [and that she did not believe he] was being sincere. It was her opinion that this was a behavior change in [the suspect]."
Online records show that two individuals positively identified the Conway man in a 1988 photo, where he is reportedly pictured next to another man who was a known homosexual in the community.
One of the suspect's former coworkers described to police the way the Conway man used to smoke cigarettes back in 1988. The man also explained to authorities that the man pictured in the 1988 photo showed to be putting a cigarette out using the exact mannerisms the Conway man did in putting out his cigarettes.
Further profiling the suspect, the suspect's former coworker told authorities during a May 10, 2018, interview that the Conway man was a racist who he once overheard saying "all homosexuals should be put on an island and blown up." This interviewee also informed police that while it was not uncommon for those planting trees to carry knives, he knew the suspect had a knife with a 6-inch blade that he knew was illegal in Michigan and had previously told the Conway man it was illegal to carry.
Through the years, forensic examiners at the Michigan State Police Forensic Crime Laboratory's DNA Analysis Unit have identified three separate DNA samples that show to be from the same person and not the victim from evidence collected from the crime scene.
"The MSP laboratory scientist working with the affiant was able to match one person to three separate biological specimens from the evidence preserved from the crime scene that eliminated [the victim] as the contributor to those specimens," recently-filed court documents state. "The matching profile came from the DNA extracted from a cigarette butt found in the ashtray of Girard's car that was found in a parking lot in the area where his body was discovered, a blood smear found on the passenger side seat in Girard's car and a blood drop that was recovered from one of the shoes that Girard was wearing when he was killed. This DNA profile established that all three [DNA samples] came from the same person."
A search warrant asking for a sample of the Conway man's DNA was filed in Faulkner County Circuit Court last month. Following a circuit judge's OK, a Conway Police Department officer sent off a DNA sample collected from the suspect on Aug. 31.