FORT WORTH, Texas - A Tarrant County judge has sentenced a 78-year-old man to life in prison for a nearly 50-year-old murder.
Testimony in Glenn McCurley’s murder trial was scheduled to continue Tuesday morning but instead he issued a written confession to the judge.
Moments later, the judge sentenced McCurley to life in prison.
"Based upon your plea of guilty and the judicial confession and all of the evidence before the court, the court finds you guilty. I sentence you to life in prison in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice," the judge said.
The sudden change of plea to guilty was a surprise to those in the courtroom. Family and friends of the victim immediately hugged each other.
McCurley, who is now 78 years old, was accused of murdering 17-year-old Carla Walker in 1974.
She had been sitting in a car with her boyfriend after their high school's Valentine's Day dance at the time. Prosecutors said McCurley pulled open the car's door, assaulted Walker's boyfriend and abducted her.
Her body was found in a culvert near Benbrook Lake three days later. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.
"It’s torment, it’s torment. You try to push it to the back of your mind but it always comes forward," said Rodney McCoy, Walker's boyfriend.
It was a cold case for decades until advanced DNA technology led to his arrest.
Jurors spent several hours watching a video Monday which showed McCurley in a small room with investigators.
The videotaped session last year went from of string of denials to a confession and then remorse.
"How did you kill her," investigators asked.
"I just choked her," McCurley replied.
His attorney originally argued police forced a false confession from a sick, elderly man.
Other testimony on Monday included several DNA experts who worked on the case.
"I assume that the evidence we presented in court to this point finally made him realize there was no out. he was guilty, he knew he was guilty and it was time for this family to receive the closure that he is guilty," said prosecutor Kim D’Avignon.
After the judge announced the sentence, the trial moved right to victim impact statements. McCurley at one point was seen wiping away tears.
"It’s been hell," said Cindy Stone, the victim’s sister. "What you’ve done now Mr. McCurley is taken all the pain and everything we went through and put it on your family now until the day they die because they are going to live with this too."
Walker’s family told McCurley the confession is something he should have done many years ago. Now they want to help other families of victims in unresolved cases.
"That’s our goal now, to help other Carla Walker families. There are other families out there just like ours… We’re thankful to be in this position but we feel the onus in the burden to help other families and that’s our mission," brother Jim Walker said.
COLD CASE MURDER TRIAL: