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Inside Texas cold cases: These sisters died together. Nearly 31 years later, their killer was captured.

Yleen and Lillie Kennedy, who were sisters, were killed on March 5, 1984, in their Heights home on East 12th Street.
Yleen and Lillie Kennedy, who were sisters, were killed on March 5, 1984, in their Heights home on East 12th Street.

HOUSTON – Texas has its share of homicide cases that have gone cold.

While some have heated up and been solved when people come forward or evidence is retested, other cases remain on the books without answers for families whose loved ones were lost.

KPRC 2 is taking a look back at the state’s solved and unsolved cold cases.

In 1984, two adult sisters were brutally slain in their Heights-area home. The case went unsolved for decades. Then, in 2014, the case finally broke.

WHAT HAPPENED

On March 5, 1984, Jack Kennedy found his adult daughters Lillie Kennedy, 23, and Yleen Kennedy, 33, lying dead on the floor inside Yleen’s blue and white Heights-area home, located at 600 East 12th Street. Both suffered gunshot wounds.

According to investigators, Lillie, who had been shot in the back of the head, died quickly while Yleen suffered at the hands of the killer. An autopsy report revealed Yleen had not only been shot, but was also stabbed, bludgeoned and raped.

During the investigation, police determined the home had been rummaged through and property had been taken.

A neighbor told investigators he observed a man leaving the home, a duffel bag in tow. Suspecting the individual might be a burglar, the neighbor had confronted the man, who claimed his wife had kicked him out of the house. Believing the story, the neighbor permitted the man to walk away.

An extensive investigation was conducted but no suspects were identified. With little to go on, detectives ran out of leads and the case went dormant for decades.

The Kennedy sisters were buried in a cemetery in Halletsville. Distraught by his daughters’ slayings, Jack had the word “murdered” etched on their tombstones.

SOLVED

Cold case investigators reviewed the case in 2009 and used samples from Yleen’s sexual-assault examination to develop a DNA profile, which was then run through the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a national database containing DNA profiles of missing persons and convicted offenders, among others. The effort didn’t yield any matches and the investigation slowed to a standstill until late 2014, when a man facing charges in an unrelated crime offered to share information about the murders, Reuters reported. The man identified Edmond Degan as a possible suspect in the murders.

Edmond Degan
Edmond Degan (KPRC 2)

Investigators determined Degan still lived in the Houston area. Forensic evidence obtained from Degan was entered into CODIS and his DNA was found to the match evidence in the case.

In January 2015, Degan was arrested and subsequently charged for his role in the death of Yleen Kennedy.

HPD Sergeant Paul Motard said Degan was originally questioned about the murders, but was not considered a suspect at the time, Reuters reported.

Court records show Degan has a lengthy criminal past. The year after the sisters' murders, he was convicted of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, followed by charges of assaulting a family member, terroristic threat and drug possession.

RELATED: Arrest made in Houston cold case: Man, 57, charged in 1984 killing in The Heights

SENTENCED

During a probable cause hearing, prosecutors told a judge that the aforementioned tipster saw Degan shortly after the killings.

"This client told investigators that this defendant returned home with a bundle, asking for a hammer. He then began to beat a revolver into pieces and throw it in a ditch behind a house," a Harris County prosecutor told the judge. "He then lit a fire and burned numerous items in a fire pit, including ladies' wallets and small papers."

Degan was ultimately sentenced to 15 years in prison.

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