Local police help close cold Georgia murder

Mar. 8—Sometimes it takes an assist from a far-away police department to close out a cold murder case.

That is what happened when Washington City Police stepped in to help Georgia authorities solve the 34-year-old murder of Mary Wilfong.

The woman's body was found by deer hunters near I-75 in Monroe County Georgie in November of 1989. An autopsy indicated she had been assaulted and strangled before her body was dumped.

Authorities reported Wilfong, 23, was last seen alive, getting into a semi.

Police investigating the death hit a two-decade roadblock in the case before a Detective in Georgia resubmitted the DNA in the case looking for a genealogy trace.

The results brought Washington police into the investigation.

"In August 2022, we were contacted by FBI office in Bloomington who had been in contact with FBI in Atlanta that was assisting in this cold case," said Washington Police Detective Barry Hudson. "Through some DNA genealogy research, they developed a suspect in our area."

That suspect turned out to be Larry Richard Padgett, 60, who was living in the Loogootee area, and at the time of the homicide was reportedly working as an over-the-road trucker.

"Once they developed the DNA genealogy profile, we had to match that with Mr. Padget. We were tasked with collecting a DNA sample from him in Washington," said Hudson. "We played a minor role and we were glad to do it. We helped make the DNA profile connection. The Georgia officers came up and interviewed Mr. Padget at our facility."

With the DNA match, Geogia authorities indicted Padgett on charges of malice and felony murder. He pleaded guilty and last week was sentenced to life in prison.

"Anytime any case is resolved we celebrate, especially when it is a cold case and we can bring closure to the family. Unfortunately, this woman's mother passed away shortly before we could get her the news," said Hudson.

Police say solving any homicide case can be difficult, and cold cases like this one are particularly tough.

In the meantime, Washington police are working with some other agencies in hopes of bring closure to more families whose loved ones have been the victim of foul play.

"We are currently assisting on some cold cases from our area," said Hudson. "State Police are investigating them."