Lehigh Valley

Police ID suspect in 1979 killing of Bethlehem teenager

Cold case of Holly Branagan's stabbing death reopened by police.

Police ID suspect in 1979 killing of Bethlehem teenager

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Thirty-five years ago this week, 17-year-old Holly Branagan was stabbed to death inside her home in Bethlehem.

Now, for the first time, police said they have a suspect. Police wouldn't say Monday who the suspect is, but they said they believe he did it. Now, all they need is someone to step forward to confirm it.

"With the help of the grand jury we do have a person of interest. It is somebody that was an acquaintance of the family from the 1970s and it is a male," said Chief Mark Diluzio, Bethlehem Police Dept.

The Freedom High School student was found stabbed to death inside her home on Pine Top Trail in Bethlehem on March 28, 1979. The attack was so brutal, the blade of the knife snapped off in her back.

For 35 years, the case has been cold, but with advances in the field of investigation and a special grand jury, Bethlehem police said a solid suspect has emerged and the 35 years that have elapsed since the murder are starting to work in their favor.

"I think when he goes to sleep at night, the demons return. He knows what he did," said Diluzio. "Usually, when someone commits a crime like that, they tell somebody. They go to somebody to vent or they tell somebody in confidence. That is the person we are looking for."

Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli has been watching the investigation very closely.

Morganelli said he's hopeful the final pieces of evidence needed will come in so charges can be filed.

"It remains a top priority, and I would love to solve this case before my time here ends as DA. It would be a great thing for us to bring this case to a conclusion and know what happened," said Morganelli.

Diluzio said Branagan's father is now 95-years-old. He said Branagan is taking comfort in knowing his daughter's death is still being investigated, but he'll be even more comforted once her killer is arrested.

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