Ricky Lee Harnish, 54, received the maximum sentence of 24 years in prison for the 1976 rape and murder of South Jeffco resident Holly Marie Andrews, under the terms of a plea agreement.
The sentencing was handed out Monday in a Georgetown court in front of members of Andrews’ family.
Clear Creek County Sheriff Don Krueger said he felt relieved the case was finally over after so many years. He added that Harnish had been in county custody for more than a year.
It was just three days after Christmas in 1976 when two cross-country skiers found Andrews’ naked body near Bakerville. She was raped and had been stabbed six times in the back and slashed across the chest.
In 2007, a new law began requiring that all convicted felons submit a DNA sample, which is then sent to Colorado’s DNA database.
The database also contains genetic fingerprints left behind from unsolved crime scenes and is continually searching for matches.
In January, a DNA match linked Harnish to the victim’s body, and the cold case was revived by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.
Harnish, who was in a halfway house serving a community corrections sentence for a methamphetamine conviction, was arrested in 2008.
In 1976, Andrews was a Columbine High School student and had recently completed a treatment program. The family said she was putting her life back together. She left her mother’s house in South Jefferson County to see a friend on a Sunday night and never returned.