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Stonington woman finds peace after Colorado police solve sister’s cold case rape, death 40 years later

New London

STONINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — Forty years after the brutal death of her sister, a Stonington woman may now have a new sense of peace this holiday season.

In January 1980, Janet Johnson’s 21-year-old sister, Helene Pruszynski, was doing an internship at a Colorado radio station when she was raped and killed.

Johnson, who now lives in Stonington, chose to keep her face hidden during our interview because she doesn’t want the focus to be on her.

Helene Pruszynski (1980)

“I don’t,” said Johnson. “I want to think of my sister and I want to thank the people out in Colorado. They’re my heroes without a doubt.”

Janet Johnson, sister to Helene (1980)

Johnson said 40 years of not knowing who so brutally took her little sister have ended.

Police in Douglas County, Colorado, used DNA evidence to catch an alleged killer. James Curtis Clanton, 62, known then as Curtis Allen White.

James Clanton in mug shots from 1998 and 2019 (Credit: Douglas County Sheriff’s Office)

“I believe a family member gave their DNA and then which led to another family member that had done one of these ancestory.com sites and thankfully they agreed to give up their research and their DNA and they were able to track this person down,” said Johnson. 

An effective investigative tool but one which has raised questions about privacy. DNA from a used beer mug confirmed Clanton now living in Florida was a match.

Even though it was new DNA technology, which was key in making this connection, police in Colorado said it was also old fashioned police work which made this happen. 

Johnson said she cannot thank the officers and detectives enough for never giving up. And now for giving her family and friends some closure and a feeling justice will be served.

“She just radiated this sunshine that has been there over these 40 years but she lived on in our hearts and everyone she touched remembers her each day.”

Johnson said that includes Pruszynski’s choral group from her high school in Hamilton, Massachusetts, which established a scholarship in her honor. 

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