Loogootee man arrested in connection to a 1989 murder in Georgia

LOOGOOTEE – A Loogootee man was arrested in connection to the November 21, 1989 murder of 23-year-old Mary Louicile Willfong.

Deer hunters in Georgia found Willfong’s body. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

Police developed several suspects but said the DNA did not match the evidence taken from the victim. That’s when the case went cold.

At the time of the murder, investigators received tips that Willfong had been in Forest Park, Georgia at the farmers market and that she got into a tractor-trailer with a man. After several suspects were investigated, the case went cold.

Larry Padgett Jr.

On March 11, 2019, Sheriff Freeman assigned Investigator Marc Mansfield to re-opening the case. Mansfield took the original evidence and re-submitted it to the GBI crime lab to be tested with newer technology.

Mansfield, then, took that evidence to Miami for a genealogy trace on the DNA taken from Mary Willfong. Mansfield then reached out to Special Agent Tim Burke with the FBI in Atlanta, who agreed to help with the case.

Investigators were able to identify 59-year-old Larry Padgett Jr. as a suspect.

Meanwhile, the FBI Evidence Recovery Team and the Washington Police Department in Indiana were able to get DNA evidence from Padgett and match it to the DNA taken from Willfong’s body.

Arrest warrants were issued for Padgett and, on Wednesday, police drove to Indiana to arrest him.

Investigators found more evidence linking Padgett to Willfong’s murder during the arrest.

Photo provided by the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department in Georgia.

Padgett is being held in Indiana until he can be extradited.