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Pennsylvania Councilman Charged in Lover's 1979 Death

Comstock/Thinkstock(BEAVER COUNTY, Pa.) -- A Pennsylvania councilman has been arrested and charged with strangling his young lover in a cold case that has haunted investigators for more than three decades.

Bridgewater Councilman Gregory Scott Hopkins, 65, was arrested Sunday in connection with the 1979 death of Catherine Janet Walsh, then 23, in Beaver County, Pa. about 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh.

Investigators said they were able to use DNA technology, which was unvailable at the time of the crime, to link Hopkins to evidence from the scene.

Walsh's father, Peter Joseph Caltury Sr., went to his daughter's house on Sept. 1, 1979 when he was unable to reach her. He discovered "Ms. Walsh's dead body lying face down on her bed with her hands bound with a white rope behind her back and a light blue bandana ligature tied around her neck," according to a criminal complaint.

Caltury immediately called police, who came and collected evidence that included the bed sheets, a light-blue nightgown, the white rope and the blue bandana. An autopsy determined her cause of death to be strangulation and the death was ruled a homicide.

Authorities interrogated Hopkins the same day.

"Mr. Hopkins told police that he was involved in a consensual sexual relationship with Ms. Walsh," according to the criminal complaint. "However, he went on to explain that this relationship did not involve any sexual contact with Ms. Walsh at her residence for about one month prior to her death."

Investigators from multiple agencies toiled over the case for years, but were never able to identify a suspect or motive.

Then, in 2010, persistent investigators resubmitted the evidence to a crime lab for forensic analysis. Hopkins' DNA was identified on Walsh's bed sheets, nightgown and the rope binding from the crime scene.

"This was a generational case and what I mean to define that is that generations, literally, of investigators worked on this case for the sum of 30 years that led to the filing of charges [Sunday] and the arrest of Mr. Hopkins," Beaver County District Attorney Anthony Berosh said at a news conference Monday.

"The road has finally come to an end," he said. "A promise was kept to Pete [the father] and his family and a secret now is revealed."

Walsh's elderly father and brother were on-hand for the announcement.

"Because of your dedication, professionalism and your relentless pursuit of justice, today has brought a measure of comfort, relief and satisfaction to our family," Walsh's brother, Francesco Caltieri, 52, said at the news conference.

A woman answered the phone at Hopkins' home, but hung up abruptly.

Hopkins' attorney maintains his client's innocence and says Hopkins' good-standing in the community does not line up with the accusations made against the building contractor.

"This gentleman has lived his entire life in Beaver County," Hopkins' attorney James Ross told ABC News. "For 32 years, he has operated a reputable business, he's a member of a bureau council and has had no involvement with the criminal justice system."

Ross says Hopkins is a well-liked community member, who is married with children and step-children.

"Mr. Hopkins' character traits and background do not lend itself to this type of crime. We intend to fully investigate the matter and defend him," Ross said.

Hopkins is being held in the Beaver County Jail without bond. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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