Cold case: Young real estate fought for her life during attack - KPTV - FOX 12

Cold case: Young real estate agent fought for her life but was "just overcome"

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PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) -

Cold case investigators have submitted evidence to the state crime lab in hopes of solving the violent murder of a young real estate agent in 1979.

Donna Kuzmaak, 26, was known for her sweet personality and big smile.

Married two years, Kuzmaak was passionate about her career and her plans to flip houses.

"I remember her dragging me around to people's homes she was selling. Cleaning places up to sell," said Steve Mitchell, Kuzmaak's husband.

Mitchell discovered his wife's body in their southeast Portland home on the afternoon of March 21, 1979.

"The first couple years was, you know, bad," said Mitchell. "But then I just felt like I wasn't getting anywhere grinding on it."

Mitchell now prefers to focus on good memories with Kuzmaak but discussed her case because finding answers remains important to her loved ones.

"Donna's mom is 86. Her dad is gone," said Mitchell. "But I think that's something she'd really like to have, is closure on something like this."

On the day Kuzmaak was killed, Mitchell arrived home from work at 4:30 p.m. Kuzmaak had left work 90 minutes earlier.

He noticed the couple's dogs were acting strangely and a dish of leftover manicotti sat out.

"Whoever was there may have got it out to distract the dogs, that's the only thing I could think of," he said.

Mitchell found Kuzmaak in the basement. She was beaten, strangled, stabbed and sexually assaulted.

Mitchell later noticed one of the dogs was stabbed as well, likely trying to protect her.

"She fought very hard," said Mike Stahlman, a retired detective now volunteering the Portland Police Bureau's Cold Case unit. "There was evidence that she did fight but was just overcome at some point."

Stahlman, who was a new police officer at the time Kuzmaak was killed, recalled the thorough investigation and the search for the killer at the time.

He reviewed two of the original leads with Fox 12.

A neighbor saw a man in front of Kuzmaak's home either the day of the murder or the day before. The neighbor worked with police to put together a composite of the man using stock "Identi-Kit" facial features.

Police also matched bloody footprints found in the basement to a pair of Aspen Trailfinder hiking boots. The shoes were fairly common and sold at several stores in Portland at the time.

Stahlman recently submitted evidence to the state crime lab, but he would also like to hear from anyone with information about Kuzmaak's murder.

"Memories are fading and people are dying," said Stahlman. "What we can save, we should save."

If you have any information about this crime, you can call Portland police at 503-823-0000 or leave a tip on the Portland police website.

You can also leave a Crime Stoppers tip online at crimestoppersoforegon.com, text CRIMES (274637) and in the subject line put 823HELP, followed by your tip, or call 503-823-HELP (4357) and leave your tip information.

Visit www.tipsoft.com to download the Crime Stoppers app for the iPhone or Droid.

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