Man Who Shot a Police Officer in 1981 Identified as Serial Killer 40 Years Later

True Crime Mysteries (Megan)

Joseph Michael Ervin would never have been connected without tremendous advances in DNA

<img src="*L3zVOOIYU2sIdc1Tg_1X3w.jpeg" style="width:100%;border-radius:10px;margin-top:0" data-caption="Antoinette Parks, Madeleine Furey-Livaudais, and Gwendolyn Harris" data-credit="Denver Police Department" data-externalurl=""/>
Antoinette Parks, Madeleine Furey-Livaudais, and Gwendolyn HarrisPhoto byDenver Police Department

On December 7, 1978, in Denver, Colorado, Antonio Livaudais arrived home from work at 6 PM. He instantly knew something was wrong. His nine-month-old daughter was in a swing on the back porch alone, and his three-year-old was watching tv in the dark. Antonio immediately went upstairs and looked in his bedroom; he found his wife, thirty-three-year-old Madeleine Furey-Livaudais, in a pool of blood.

Madeleine and Antonio married in Philadelphia. Where Madeleine had worked for a children’s nature magazine called Ranger Rick, and research for the magazine let her travel the world. She had her two daughters in Philadelphia and wrote a children’s science book.

The family had recently moved to Denver, Colorado when Antonio got a job at an architectural office.

Madeline had been stabbed multiple times, and there are other details of the case being withheld, but law enforcement confirmed that there was a sexual element in addition to the stabbings.

There was no sign of forced entry, so it is believed that her attacker had knocked on the door, then forced their way into the home and made her go to her bedroom. There the assailant stabbed her. The two children were not harmed in the attack.

Authorities had no leads and had said at the time Madeleine was killed that authorities were hampered by several unsolved murders, all unrelated to this case. Several samples of forensic evidence were taken, as it was 1978, and there was not much they could do with DNA.

Two years later, on Sunday, August 10, 1980, Denver police responded to a call on the five hundred block of east 17th street to a report of a woman lying in the road. Responding officers discovered that fifty-three-year-old Dolores Barajas was suffering from multiple stab wounds. Dolores died at the scene before medical help arrived.

Dolores had been walking on her way to work at the Fairmont hotel. She had recently moved to Denver for the summer to visit family. Originally from El Paso, Texas, that day was supposed to be her last shift before moving back to Texas. She was a mother and grandmother and very much loved by her family.

The senseless attack had left law enforcement baffled, and for many years there had been no connection to Madeleine’s murder case.

Later that year, a woman was found on East 47th Avenue & Andrews Drive in Montbello on December 24, 1980. She could not be identified at the time but was later identified as twenty-seven-year-old Gwendolyn Harris.

Gwendolyn’s body was found stabbed multiple times; money was still on her body, eliminating robbery as a motive.

Gwen was last seen at The Polo Club Lounge on December 20, four days before her body was found. Again, little headway was made in solving her murder. Forensic evidence was collected and stored, and because it had been different from Madeleine and Dolore’s murder, the three cases were not immediately connected.

January 24, 1981, a teenager named Antoinette Parkes was found dead in a field next to 64th Ave and Broadway in Denver. Antoinette was stabbed twenty-three times.

Antoinette was a seventeen-year-old high school student. She loved children and hoped to work with kids someday. Antoinette was just over six months pregnant at the time of her death. Her family has said she was very excited to be a mother herself.

After exhausting all leads and evidence from these cases, all four of these cases went cold. The circumstances of the cases had all been different. Madeleine had been murdered in her home when a man presumably walked up to her door, barged in during broad daylight, and attacked her while the children were also in the home. Dolores had been attacked in the street in the early morning hours, Gwen had been abducted on her way home in the early morning hours, and Antoinette, a teenager, was abducted on her way to school and dumped in a field.

In 2004 Denver police started a dedicated cold case crime unit. They began to look into the cases of Madeleine Furey-Livaudais, Doloras Barajas, Gwen Harris, and Antoinette Parkes.

In 2013 they got their first connection. DNA evidence connected Dolores and Madeleine to the same killer. Two years later, in 2015, authorities could also connect Harris to that killer. And finally, in 2018, Parkes was added to the list of victims of the same assailant.

In 2019 the Denver police department used genealogy DNA services to locate relatives of the killer in Texas. After working with Texas departments, in 2021, they came up with a suspect Joseph Michael Ervin. Additionally, they also discovered he was wanted on a murder charge in Texas and had an extensive criminal history.

In 1969 Ervin, seventeen at the time, was at a local bowling alley when he and an unidentified friend walked up to the car of twenty-one-year-old Rodney Bonham. Ervin asked Rodney and his passenger a question. Then the confrontation turned hostile, and Ervin pulled out a gun and shot Rodney in the neck. Ervin then asked if the passenger could drive. The passenger then managed to close the door and run to the bowling alley to call for help.

After four days in the hospital, Rodney died from the gunshot. Ervin is said to have called the family after Rodney had died, saying, “I’m sorry he’s dead, but we all have to go some time. I’m sorry I shot him.”

It is believed that he then fled to Colorado.

According to criminal records in Colorado, he had been arrested in 1970 for a slew of burglaries and rapes, including a sexual assault of a ten-year-old girl. He was acquitted by reasons of insanity and was sent to a mental hospital in Pueblo, Colorado, and released on conditional bail in 1977.

On June 27, 1981, Aurora PD officer twenty-six-year-old Debra Sue Corr pulled over a man believed to be intoxicated. She radioed in her location, the man’s name, and license plate number. Asking for help in the arrest. She was in the process of arresting the man when he managed to break free.

There was a scuffle, and the man managed to get hold of Debra’s service weapon in the struggle. At this time, a local man named Glen Spies was driving by and stopped to help. The suspect shot Debra in the head and Glen in the back before fleeing the scene.

When police arrived at the scene, Debra was declared deceased.
Derbra Sue CorrPhoto byAurora Police Department

Debra had just completed her first year as an officer and was married to a fellow officer. This would be Aurora PD’s first line of duty shooting and forever changed the department’s patrolling alone policy.

Glen was then rushed to the hospital, where he was able to recover from his wounds. Unfortunately, the bullet exploded near his spine, and it would cost him the ability to join the police force as he walked with a limp and lived in constant pain. In July 1981, the Aurora city council awarded Glen $10,000 for his heroism and sacrifice.

Police found the temporary driver’s license of the man in Debra’s patrol vehicle and identified him as Joe Erwing. They went to his address and found Joe trying to get off the handcuffs by sawing them off his wrists. Joe Erwing was arrested.

<img src="*dOzCA3qgm5udS5OD.jpg" style="width:100%;border-radius:10px;margin-top:0" data-caption="Joe Michael Ervin appears in a 1970 mugshot" data-credit="Denver Police Department" data-externalurl=""/>
Joe Michael Ervin appears in a 1970 mugshotPhoto byDenver Police Department

Five days later, on July 1, 1981, Joe Erwing, at this time was thirty-years-old, hung himself while in a solitary cell in Adams County Jail. He left a suicide note, which said, “To the Denver community. I pray that I be forgiven for taking up your time and for my sickening behavior.” “To the kid in the hospital and Ms. Corr. I didn’t mean what I did. I was so uptight. Forgive me.” Signed by Joe Erwing.

After his arrest, police discovered that he was currently out on bail for rape from 1980.

After the suicide, police also discovered that there had been a mistake during his bail hearing. When putting his name into the computer database, authorities had put his birth year as 1952 when he was born in 1951.

When police put the correct information into the database, Joe Erwing came up as an alias. His real name was Joseph Micheal Ervin. He was wanted in connection to a murder in Texas, and finally connecting him to the four unsolved cold cases in Denver and the murdered police officer in Aurora.

After exhausting all efforts to find a cataloged piece of DNA from Ervin, Denver and Texas Authorities petitioned the court to exhume Ervin’s body to get a DNA sample. Courts approved the exhumation of Ervin, and in 2022, the Denver police department officially announced that Ervin was the serial killer connected to the killings of these four women in Denver.

After over forty years, the families and the Denver community have answers to these cold cases. Some of the family members had these statements to say after finding out.

“We can finally have peace knowing who did this to my little sister,” said George Journey, Parks’ brother, at a press conference. “We have closure. I wish my sisters and my mom could all be here to see this. Unfortunately, they didn’t live long enough to see this, but I know they’re here with us in spirit.”

“She was a loving wife, sister, daughter and mother to two very young girls, but in 1978 she had that bright future ripped away from her,” said Molly Livaudais, a daughter of Furey-Livaudais. “Tragically, we didn’t get to grow up with her and to hear her stories and to witness the contributions she could have made to the world. We found out that this man murdered four more women, assaulted an uncounted number of others.”
“In addition, to learn about the line of duty death of officer Debra Sue Corr has been personally very impactful,” she said. “She was out doing her job when she attempted to arrest this serial killer for an unrelated crime, and in the course of his arrest she was murdered herself. But with her sacrifice, she prevented him from killing anyone else. And it’s clear he wasn’t going to stop on his own. She stopped him. The police stopped him back in 1981.”

Denver PD is continuing to go through old cold cases and looking for additional victims of sexual assault or murder, and they believe Ervin likely had more victims that are currently unknown. While it is bittersweet not to have justice in this case, hopefully, victims and their families can rest easier knowing that this predator isn’t here anymore to hurt anyone else.

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