Suspect in Branagan cold case

Moira "Holly" Branagan

Moira “Holly” Branagan

When I checked StatCounter I saw that many people had look up the Moira Holly Branagan case. I asked on Twitter whether there was anything new I might have missed … and YES! An article came up in Allentown’s Morning Call newspaper on Sunday. Hat Tip to @deathunderglass!

For the first time since Holly Branagan‘s murder 35 years ago, investigators working the cold case say they believe they know who stabbed the 17-year-old to death in the kitchen of her Bethlehem home. But city police Detective Thomas Galloway, who took over the case in 2009, would say nothing else about the ongoing investigation. “I have developed a suspect, but we’re not ready to move forward,” Galloway said last week. It’s the first time authorities have said they’ve identified a suspect in the brutal murder.” 

Moira Holly Branagan was a senior at Freedom High School. Branagan was found stabbed 18 times in the back with a 10-inch kitchen knife. The autopsy showed she had 15 serious knife wounds, three less serious wounds, and two defensive wounds on her hands from apparently trying to ward off the knife attack. The attack was so violent that the kitchen knife that was used to kill her, broke off in her back. The time of her death was estimated at before dusk on March 28, 1979. Sunset according to locals was around 630pm.

The police found no evidence of burglary or forced entry. Branagan had been dead about 18 hours before she was found. She had not been sexually assaulted.

Detective Galloway said that the murder appeared to be unplanned but it had a viciousness that points to a crime of high emotion. He said Branagan didn’t live long into the struggle, but that 30 to 40 seconds might have felt like an eternity to her. I agree that this was a highly personalized crime. Police suspect the cheery high school senior knew her attacker.

No fingerprints were found on the murder weapon. It was wiped clean. Someone had taken the time, after the rage was gone, to wipe clean the knife and erase traces of fingerprints. So, our enraged killer calmed down at the crime scene. Maybe there are traces left in other spots of the house IF the killer walked around AND that the killer may have had time to plan an escape. I look forward to read more about the new insights and will update this case here asap.

Moira “Holly” Branagan (1962 – 1979) was found stabbed 18 times in the back with a 10-inch kitchen knife. The autopsy showed she had 15 serious knife wounds, three less serious wounds, and two defensive wounds on her hands. The attack was so violent that the kitchen knife broke off in her back. The estimated time of her death was before dusk on March 28, 1979. The police found no evidence of burglary or forced entry. Holly was dead for about 18 hours before she was found. She had not been sexually assaulted. Detective Galloway said that the murder appeared unplanned but it had a viciousness that points to a crime of high emotion. Police suspect Moira “Holly” Branagan knew her killer. No fingerprints were found on the murder weapon. It was wiped clean. In 2014, police hinted at a suspect but since then there have not been any updates. Despite the involvement from activists, the media, and sending this case to the Grand Jury, it remains unsolved.