East Texas man pleads guilty to two cold case murders - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

East Texas man pleads guilty to two cold case murders

TYLER, TX (KLTV) – One man has now owned up to two Smith County murder cases spanning nearly three decades.

Thomas Dunn, 59, pleaded guilty Friday morning to murdering Catheryn Powell in 1982 and to killing Francis Willingham in 1984. Dunn was sentenced to two life terms in jail which he'll serve out simultaneously.

Dunn stomped and beat Willingham with a pipe, and attacked and fatally shot Powell 18-months before that.

Investigators say that it was a phone call six years ago from one of Powell's family members that led Smith County Investigators to reopen the case. Relatives of both victims were in court Friday morning.

Detective Joe Rasco, with the Smith County Cold Case Unit, got to work in 2005 while Dunn was serving time for raping a woman.

Rasco, the former military commander was relentless, spending weeks digging up evidence in Ms. Powell's case, including DNA.

Detective Rasco says that he interviewed Dunn in prison a year and a half ago. He confessed again to Willingham's murder, allowing prosecutors to reopen that case. The defendant also learned about the DNA evidence linking him to Powell's murder.

Dunn will be eligible for parole when he's 80 years old. The Smith County Cold Case Unit is currently looking into 23 cold cases.

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