Dateline: Unforgettable: What happened to Helene Pruszynski?

Helene Pruszynski
Helene Pruszynski (Image via Wheaton College)

On Tuesday, Dateline: Unforgettable will take a dive down memory lane and report on the four decades old cold case of Helene Pruszynski, an aspiring journalist from Massachusetts who was r*ped and murdered while interning in Colorado. The episode, titled A Promise to Helene, airs on November 8, 2022, on Oxygen at 8 pm ET.

The synopsis reads:

"A college student is found murdered and the case sits cold for nearly 40 years; Josh Mankiewicz reflects on the vow that keeps the case alive and the innovative method used to catch the killer."

According to reports, Pruszynski, 21, was kidnapped, brutally r*ped, and then stabbed to death on a regular day in January 1980. The following day, her body was found in a field by authorities. Although there were no leads for decades, investigators finally cracked the case after nearly 40 years in 2019 using advanced DNA technology to bring her killer to justice.


Helene Pruszynski was kidnapped and murdered while on her way back home from work

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Helene Pruszynski was a junior at Wheaton College in Massachusetts and an aspiring journalist at the time of her murder in 1980. She was staying at a relative's house while in Englewood, Colorado, for an internship at a local radio station called KHOW radio and had made the move just weeks before the brutal murder.

Helene would take the bus to and from work and then walk a short distance to make it home every evening. But her relatives, whose home she was residing in with a friend named Kitsey Snow at the time, grew concerned when she failed to return home on January 16, after work. It was later revealed that Pruszynski was kidnapped that evening while returning home from the bus stop.

Her housemate, Kitsey Snow, made journal entries about the dreadful incident. One entry read:

"This has been the longest and worst day of my life. I am writing because I don’t know what else to do… we waited for Helene to come home, and waited."

In the early morning hours of January 17, and hours before the horrific discovery, Snow reportedly wrote:

"Still nothing… Will this night ever end? We are trying to decide when to call her mom and dad… We know something is very wrong. I think we should call them. If it was my daughter, I’d want to know."

Helene Pruszynski's mutilated body was located in a field. According to reports, her hands were tied behind her, and she was repeatedly stabbed in the back. An autopsy later revealed that she was s*xually assaulted.


Wheaton College student Helene Pruszynski's murder case solved due to DNA advancement

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Although evidence was gathered from the victim's body, clothing, and crime scene, a lack of advanced DNA technology stalled the case for decades.

The cold case was re-examined in 2017, when investigators started utilizing genealogy databases and DNA evidence from the Castle Pines crime site to focus their pursuit on a suspect. They ultimately identified the suspect as a man named James Curtis Clanton. He was apprehended in December 2019, after discovering that his DNA was a perfect match to the sample obtained from the crime scene 40 years ago.

Clanton was arrested in Florida and, days later, confessed to raping and murdering the 21-year-old all those years ago. He was charged with the first-degree murder of Helene Pruszynski and was sentenced to life in prison.


Dateline: Unforgettable's new episode, titled A Promise to Helene, airs on November 8, 2022, on Oxygen at 8 pm ET.

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Edited by Somava