The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office has concluded its “cold case” investigation into the 1982 murder of Susan Becker.  Sheriff’s investigators, with the support of the District Attorney’s Office, have closed the investigation with a case status of “death of offender”. The suspect, John Agrue, died in 2009 after an accidental overdose of prescription medication.  Over the years, detectives have stayed in contact with the Becker family and spoke with them last week, providing them with the details that led to the final resolution of the investigation.


Case Summary


On July 1, 1982, several fishermen discovered the decomposing body of a female in a ravine near the 32,000 block of Boulder Canyon Drive in unincorporated Boulder County.  Investigators found that the victim, 20 year-old Susan Becker, had sustained 13 stab wounds to her torso and neck and died from her injuries.  A black handled knife, believed to have belonged to Ms. Becker was found near her right hand; it was later determined that the knife had not caused the wounds to Ms. Becker. The body was clothed at the time that it was discovered and was covered with a towel, presumably placed there by her assailant. Some of Ms. Becker’s personal effects were found in a day pack with the body.

Susan Becker


Ms. Becker was raised in the Boulder area and frequently spent time in Boulder Canyon sunbathing.  She was last seen in Boulder by a friend sometime during the morning of June 20, 1982.


At the time, Sheriff’s detectives were unable to identify a suspect in Ms. Becker’s death. Mr. John Agrue figured as a person of interest in the investigation, however, declined to cooperate with investigators.  His extended family was interviewed by detectives, and statements indicating that Agrue had hiked in the area where Becker’s body was found were provided, however, there was not enough evidence to link him to Ms. Becker’s murder.


John Agrue had been previously  convicted in the 1966 murder of his 14 year old sister-in-law, Susan Marino, in Illinois  He was paroled in January 1982 after serving 16 years of a 20-50 year indeterminate sentence and moved to Boulder, and then to Longmont shortly thereafter.


On July 9, 1982, 94-year-old Orma Smith’s body was found in the Big Elks Meadows area, south of Estes Park, Colorado.  Ms. Smith resided in Longmont; John Agrue was her neighbor at the time of her death. Larimer County Sheriff’s investigators were unable to link him to Ms. Smith’s murder at the time.


On July 15, 1982, Agrue attempted to abduct a 26 year-old female student at knife point while she was starting her car on the University of Colorado Campus in Boulder.  The student was able to flag down a passing University employee who rendered assistance. Agrue was arrested and convicted of the crime.


After serving his sentence in the Colorado Department of Corrections for the attempted abduction, Agrue was returned to Illinois in 1984 to complete his sentence for the murder of his sister in law, his parole having been revoked following his conviction in Colorado. After his release in 1989, he lived in Illinois, where he died in 2009 after an accidental drug overdose.  Subsequent to his death, relatives discovered numerous women’s purses, jewelry, and other effects in his home, along with newspaper articles about the attempted abduction of the 26 year-old female, the Smith homicide, and Becker homicide.


In June 2010, the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office announced that advances in DNA evidence and comparison (a technology unavailable in 1982) definitively linked Argue to Orma Smith’s murder. Boulder County investigators, working with Larimer County and Illinois law enforcement officials,

re-evaluated Agrue’s potential involvement in Ms. Becker’s death.


There were a number of similarities in the three homicides and the attempted abduction:  three of the four involved young women (Ms. Smith being the exception), their purses or personal effects were taken by the suspect, and all involved the use of a knife.  The three homicide victims died from multiple stab wounds inflicted upon the same area of the body; Ms. Marino’s ,Ms. Becker’s and Mrs. Smith’s bodies were found in or near mountain streams.


The Boulder County Sheriff’s Office recruited the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigations Behavioral Analysis Unit, presenting them with the case facts from the four investigations. Upon review, the FBI’s experts concluded that it was highly probable that Mr. Agrue was responsible for Susan Becker’s murder. Detectives shared the case facts and the FBI experts’ opinions with the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office and solicited their opinion. They agreed that there was probable cause to believe that Mr. Agrue was responsible for Susan Becker’s death and, that if he were still alive, they would pursue murder charges against him.


The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit is also investigating the potential of Mr. Agrue having been involved in other homicides as a serial killer.

Sheriff’s office release

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