In March 1973 the half-naked body of Ann Woodward was found brutally murdered on the floor inside the pub that she owned with her husband.

The 46-year-old mother’s body was discovered between two pool tables, with her shirt unbuttoned and pants used to strangle her.

Her murder has haunted the small US desert town of Moab, Utah for over half a century. While police were never able to find her killer, they believed Ted Bundy was the likely culprit, as he had raped and killed multiple women in the area around the time of her death.

While Bundy admitted to thirty murders, his real victim count is unknown.

However, they had not been able to prove that he was the culprit due to a lack of evidence, so police assumed she was just another one of his unnamed victims.

25 other men, including Douglas Keith Chudomelka, had also been of interest to police after the crime, as witnesses spotted Chudomelka’s sedan parked near the victims car on the night of the murder.

However, when Chudomelka was interviewed the next day, he denied being at the bar, and insisted that he was at a nearby tavern.

His girlfriend at the time, a woman named Joyce, also backed his statement and said he was home at the time of the murder on March 2, 1973.

A few months later, Chudomelka was arrested on a domestic violence charge, with an angry Joyce claiming he had been the one who killed Ann Woodward, but she soon retracted her statement.

With no new leads, the case went cold, but forward-thinking Police Chief Melvin Dalton, decided to keep DNA evidence from both the victim and all potential suspects anyways, in hopes that one day the right technology would be used to identify the killer.

In 2006, Dalton reopened the case, but had no luck until September 2023, when Detective Jeremy Dexler decided to uncover the two boxes of evidence collected from the initial investigation and send it to the crime lab. 

The DNA evidence had sat at the Moab police department’s storage units for over 50 years and was not easy to locate as it had been moved to another building.

The evidence was crucial in solving the cold case.

When results from the crime lab came back at the end of May 2024, they confirmed that a substantial amount of Chudomelka’s DNA was on the inside of Ann’s pants and on all of the buttons of her shirt.

This was enough to confirm that Chudomelka was the one responsible for Ann Woodward’s murder. He was 36 when he committed the crime.

Chudomelka was not known to the victim, but Detective Drexler believes that he may have played a game of poker with Ann when he visited the pub, and may have been angry at her for beating him.

He added that it could have also been a crime of opportunity rather than rage as he had a violent history.

Detective Drexler praised Dalton’s forward-thinking for being the reason why they solved the case.

“This case hinged on the hair Dalton pulled in 1973,” Drexler said.

“I have no idea how he knew that we would be able to do that today. Dalton made this case very easy for us in that aspect.”

Chudomelka passed away in 2002 at the age of 67 without ever paying for his crime, but County Lawyer Stephen Stocks believes that if he was still alive, he would’ve been found guilty of murder.

“I hope today brings some closure to the family,”  he said.

“I truly believe had this been presented to a jury, Chudomelka would have been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt for the murder of Ann Woodward.”

Images: Moab Police Department

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