Brenda Lacombe, whose 1982 slaying remains unsolved.COURTESY PHOTOSun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
Brenda Lacombe, whose 1982 slaying remains unsolved. COURTESY PHOTO

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

LOWELL -- Brenda Lacombe was just 19 years old. Her badly beaten and decomposing body was found off Interstate 495 in Harvard in 1982, and no one has been charged with her killing in the 35 years since.

The Worcester County District Attorney's unresolved-case squad continues to investigate the Lowell woman's killing, and now Lacombe's niece is trying to help by raising money to have her aunt's body exhumed so a new autopsy and DNA testing can be conducting.

Such DNA testing was not available when Lacombe's body was found.

Lacombe's niece, Lacey Kearns, 32, of Lowell, wasn't born yet when her aunt died, but she has spent years investigating her aunt's killing and believes the tests could provide new evidence.

A May 30, 1982 Sun article on the disappearance of Brenda Lacombe. Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
A May 30, 1982 Sun article on the disappearance of Brenda Lacombe.

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.

"I believe she was raped and my aunt was fighter so I know that whatever happened there should be some DNA there," Kearns said. "I think it will definitely give us answers."

Kearns is aiming to raise about $7,000 for the exhumation and testing, based on cost estimates she has researched for such procedures. Lacombe is buried in the Kings Memorial Cemetery in Tyngsboro.

Kearns has also worked to help the families of two other homicide victims who cases remain unsolved, and she got the idea for the exhumation and DNA testing from the sister of Theresa Corley, of Bellingham.

Corley was 19 when she was raped and strangled by unknown assailants. Her nude body was found in a wooded area near Interstate 495 in Bellingham.


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Corley's family raised money for exhumation and DNA testing of Corley's body earlier this year, though the Norfolk County District Attorney's Office later picked up the tab. Test results in that case remain pending.

"They kind of inspired me to move forward with doing this," Kearns said.

Kearns said she has notified the Worcester District Attorney's Office of her fundraising effort since the DA is investigating the case.

Lacey Kearns, left, kneels near the grave of her aunt, Brenda Lacombe, last year with Lacombe’s father, the late Ernest Hamilton, and Kearns’
Lacey Kearns, left, kneels near the grave of her aunt, Brenda Lacombe, last year with Lacombe's father, the late Ernest Hamilton, and Kearns' mother, Barbara Sullivan, at Kings Memorial Cemetery in Tyngsboro. SUN FILE PHOTO

Sun staff photos can be ordered by visiting our SmugMug site.
Lowell police have also contributed to the investigation, but Worcester authorities are leading it since Lacombe's body was found in Harvard.

"I'd really like the Worcester DA to pay for it, but that's really difficult because everybody wants that to happen," Kearns said.

Kearns said she hasn't yet heard back from the DA's office about her efforts, but praised investigators from the office for keeping in touch with her to keep her updated on their efforts.

Kearns said her research has already turned up new leads in the case, but she declined to provide details about them since she isn't sure investigators would want the information to be public.

A spokesman for the Worcester District Attorney's Office did not immediately return a call seeking comment, but District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. told The Sun last year that the investigation remains a priority.

"This is one of the unresolved cases that still has our attention," Early said. "All of these cases are actively being worked on."

To contribute to Kearns' effort, visit https://www.gofundme.com/voiceforbrenda.

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