After four decades, justice finally arrived for Sylvia Quayle


Nothing could assuage the horror of the day in early August 1981 when 34-year-old Sylvia Quayle’s lifeless body was discovered by her father in her home in the 3800 block of South Ogden Street in Cherry Hills Village (CHV). He had come to check on her after she didn’t show up for coffee with her parents in the morning as was their regular custom. According to prosecutors, Sylvia had been “raped, stabbed multiple times, and shot in the head.”

This photo of Sylvia Quayle was included in a cold case report in 2014.

In a press conference on February 25, 2021, then-CHV Police Chief Michelle Tovrea described Sylvia Quayle as someone who “was ambitious, friendly, vibrant, and lit up the room when she walked in.” Tovrea added, “She was a very good cook and opened a small business called ‘The Buttery,’ that specialized in wedding cakes.” The chief said that Sylvia was very close to her parents and younger sister, noting that Sylvia’s sister and brother-in-law were still CHV residents in 2021 and in communication with the police department when Sylvia’s killer was arrested but did not wish to speak publicly.

Authorities were able to determine that the assailant had broken in through a window in the home that had been pried open, then cut the telephone line so his victim could not call for help. Two years later, a serial killer named Ottis Toole, who was already in jail for another murder, confessed to the crime. There seemed to be no reason not to believe him. He wasn’t charged with Sylvia’s murder, so his story was never scrutinized. Not charging him also had the effect of leaving the case open. 

In 2000, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation submitted a DNA sample from the crime scene to the FBI’s combined DNA database. It remained there unidentified for two decades.

In January 2020, United Data Connect (UDC), a company founded by former Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey that uses DNA in forensic science analysis for familial searches and other investigations, including criminal cold cases, began to look into Sylvia’s murder. UDC teamed up with Metro Crime Stoppers and searched public databases for a DNA match to the evidence collected from the crime scene in 1981. They also brought in CHV Police Department Detective Lenny Abeyta and18th Judicial District Investigator Matt Hanagan to help put the case together. 

This is the location of her house at the end of the street, where Sylvia Quayle was found by her father after she was murdered. Photo by Freda Miklin

When they had narrowed the list of suspects to one individual, David Dwayne Anderson, who was about 21 and lived in the area at the time, they did some old-fashioned gumshoe detective work, including retrieving a discarded Coke can from Anderson’s trash at his home in a small town in southwest Nebraska. The DNA on the soda can was a match to the DNA from the crime scene.

Anderson was arrested in Nebraska in February 2021 and waived extradition back to Colorado, where he was charged with first-degree murder after deliberation and first-degree felony murder. 18th Judicial District Deputy District Attorney Grant Grosgebauer, one of the prosecutors on the case, said about Anderson, “For more than 40 years, the defendant carried with him a dark secret, a secret that was finally revealed during this trial.”

A trial on the two murder counts in March 2022 ended with a hung jury. 18th Judicial District prosecutors retried the case again three months later and on June 30, a jury found the defendant guilty of both murder counts. Anderson, who is 62, will be sentenced on August 4 under the law that was in effect when the crime occurred, which is expected to result in a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 20 years. 

These are photos of the suspect, David Dwayne Anderson, in 1980 and on February 10, 2021 when he was arrested in Nebraska for the murder of Sylvia Quayle.

John Kellner, 18th Judicial District Attorney, said after the verdict was reached, “When we first started our Cold Case Unit in 2013, this is a case most people said would never be solved. But time and science march on, leading us to justice today.” He continued, “This verdict should give hope to all those who are still waiting for justice and for any killer who thinks they got away, know that we are still coming for you.”