Between 1969 and 1981, Joe Michael Ervin went on a violent killing spree that left six people dead – but the extent of his crimes remained largely unknown until a chance encounter with a cop.
In 1981, Colorado police officer Debra Sue Corr arrested Joe Michael Ervin on suspicion of driving under the influence. Corr had no idea that Ervin was actually a cold-hearted serial killer – and that she was about to become his latest victim.
Ervin managed to disarm Corr and use his own gun to shoot him in the skull. He then shot a passerby who had stopped to help him and ran away frantically. Arrested at his home trying to saw off the handcuffs, Ervin would never face justice, as he hanged himself before being tried.
Even after his death, however, Ervin haunted the police. He became a major suspect in four cold-blooded murders between 1978 and 1981. And with the help of DNA and genealogy services, the true extent of Ervin’s crimes was revealed.
The First Crimes of Joe Michael Ervin
Born on June 25, 1951 in Fort Worth, Texas, Joe Michael Ervin killed his first victim before he was even an adult.
While strolling the Berry Bowl bowling alley on August 8, 1969, the Kirkpatrick High football star approached the driver’s side of a parked car – and shot 21-year-old passenger Rodney Bonham in the neck before fleeing .
The Tarrant County Junior College student died four days later when Fort Worth police issued a statewide warrant for Ervin’s arrest. Remarkably, the killer had telephone Bonham’s father, upon hearing the news of his son’s death, said he was remorseful: “I’m sorry he died, but we all have to go someday. I’m sorry I shot him.
Ervin fled the $650 reward on his head and settled in Denver, Colorado. Changing his name to Joe Michael Erwing. Between 1970 and 1977 he committed rapes, burglaries and assaults, for which he had a short stay in a Colorado state hospital.
He was released to continue his killing spree.
His next victim was Madeleine Furey-Livaudais, a 33-year-old magazine editor and mother of two. Ervin hit on her doorstep on December 7, 1978 and stabbed her to death in her bedroom. But an overwhelmed police department failed to investigate his murder.
Two years later, Ervin stabbed 53-year-old Denver resident Delores Barajas, who had just left to work at the Fairmont Hotel, and was found dead in an alley within hours. It was her last day of work before returning home out of state.
Then, in December 1980, 27-year-old Gwendolyn Harris disappeared from a living room in downtown Denver, and her body was found on December 21. But perhaps Ervin’s most macabre crime was the stab of Antoinette Parks, 17, in a field on January 24, 1981. She was six months pregnant.
Catch up on Ervin’s crimes
These murders would eventually turn into cold cases for decades, despite Ervin being arrested just months after his last murder. Arrested in Aurora for drunk driving on June 27, 1981, Ervin grabbed Officer Corr’s firearm from its holster while handcuffed and shot him three times – two of them fatal.
The passerby who stopped for Corr was 19-year-old explorer Scout Glen Spies, whom Ervin shot in the back before fleeing. He eventually survived. Although Corr’s colleagues traced Ervin’s license plate to his home and arrested him, the killer managed to evade justice one last time on July 1.
Charged with first degree murder and attempted murder, Ervin was found dead while in solitary confinement at the Adams County Jail during a routine check in the evening. He wrote a note confessing to murdering Corr before hanging himself.
But on Jan. 29, 2022, the Denver Police Department made an announcement that brought closure to a number of grieving families. They announced that, based on DNA samples and genetic genealogy services, they believed Joe Michael Ervin was behind the murders of Furey-Livaudais, Barajas, Harris and Parks.
Although he escaped the courtroom, Ervin’s legacy ultimately did not escape the truth.
After hearing about Joe Michael Ervin, the cold killer identified through DNA technology, learn about the West Mesa murders and the gruesome “Bone Collector” behind them. Next, learn about the depraved murders of Henry Lee Lucas.