SOLVED - Westminster PD solves 48 year old cold case

Written on 01/31/2024

Teree Becker was last seen on December 4, 1975, when she hitchhiked to see her boyfriend who was incarcerated at the Adams County Jail in Brighton, Colorado.  Her exact whereabouts after this visit are unknown.  On Saturday morning December 6, 1975, the body of Teree Becker was found by a couple riding their motorcycles in a field in the area of 100th Avenue and Lowell Boulevard in Westminster Colorado.  It appeared that Teree’s body had been dumped in the field, along with her clothing and personal items.  During her autopsy it was determined Teree had been raped, and her cause of death was asphyxiation.

The Teree Becker Cold Case has been worked and reviewed several times over the years. 

In 2003 The Colorado Bureau of Investigation was able to extract DNA from an unknown male originating off of a piece of evidence which was collected related to the rape. The unknown male profile generated was entered into the CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) database, but no match was determined.  No further substantial leads were developed until 2013, when an unknown DNA profile submitted by Las Vegas Metro Police Department matched to the unknown DNA profile in our homicide through the CODIS system.  Las Vegas Metro Police Department was reviewing a 1991 Cold Case involving a female who had been found raped and murdered in her apartment.  Through the DNA link, it determined the individual who murdered Teree Becker also murdered the female in Las Vegas.  Las Vegas Metro PD also did not have a suspect in their case. 

In 2018, the profile that had been developed in the Westminster PD case was determined to be a good candidate for Genetic Genealogy. Genetic Genealogy (GG) is a lead generation tool that can be used to identify human remains by tying DNA to a family with a missing person or to point to the likely identity of an individual whose DNA was found at a crime scene. Genealogists accomplish this through the use of comparative DNA analysis, which measures the amount of DNA that is shared between two people, combined with traditional genealogy research using historical records to infer relationships between individuals.

 Over the next five years, through the use of department research, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Parabon Nanolabs (a genetic DNA lab), and Solved By DNA (a local Denver genealogist company) a suspect was ultimately identified; Thomas Martin Elliott.

In October 2023, Las Vegas Metro PD had obtained consent to exhume the body of Thomas Elliott based on the probability Thomas was the suspect in both homicide cases. A Detective and Senior Criminalist with Westminster PD flew to Las Vegas to witness the exhumation of Thomas Elliott.  Bones of Elliott were collected and submitted for analysis.

In December 2023, Thomas Martin Elliott was identified to the unknown male DNA in both the Westminster and Las Vegas homicides.  The Teree Becker Cold Case had been solved. 

Thomas Martin Elliott was born December 14, 1950 to Walter Graham Jr. and Nancy West.  Nancy West divorced Graham and married James A. Elliott.  Mr. Elliott would go on to adopt Thomas, which made tracing the genetic DNA a challenge.

Thomas Elliott spent a large portion of his life in and out of the prison system.  Shortly before he murdered Teree he committed a burglary in Lakewood that he would ultimately be convicted of, spending six (6) years in prison. While in prison, Thomas was moved throughout the Department of Corrections system and was ultimately released from prison in Las Vegas in 1981. After his release he proceeded to commit a crime against a child and received a ten (10) year sentence.  He was again released in Las Vegas in 1991, where he would go on to murder the victim who was linked with our homicide.  Not long after this homicide, for unknown reasons, Thomas Elliott committed suicide on October 30, 1991.  He was buried in the Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery due to a short enlistment he had with the military.

Teree grew up in Casper Wyoming with her parents, sister and brother.  She graduated from Kelly Walsh High School in Casper and worked for the Golden Bell Press, a local newspaper, for a time.  Shortly after graduation, she moved down to the Denver Metro area.  Teree often stayed with friends and family and was described as a “free spirit.”  Her family said that she often lived life on the edge. They said she never met a stranger and would hold a conversation with anyone.  Teree enjoyed painting, and listening to music.  Her favorite bands were Three Dog Night and Steppenwolf.  On her headstone, her parents had the following inscribed, “In God’s Hands.”

We are thrilled we were able to solve this cold case and hopefully bring closure to the friends and family of Teree Becker. 

We would also like to thank the Vegas Justice League who voluntarily paid for police to exhume the remains of Mr. Elliott for this case.

Westminster PD will continue to diligently review and work the remaining nine Westminster Cold cases.