On January 1st, 1974, 17 year old Debra Curb was found strangled to death inside a home located on the 4000 block of College Ave. in Fresno (Ashlan / Maroa area).
Curb was a Fresno High School student who had spent New Year’s Eve listening to music and putting together puzzles with friends. This included Debra’s boyfriend and another couple, 17 year old James Arthur Blaylock and his girlfriend. The three friends eventually left the house. During the investigation, Blaylock was considered a person of interest. It was believed he returned later in the night, found a hidden key and entered the home. Detectives believed he raped and killed Debra, however, they did not have any hard evidence to support this theory.
In 2006, Blaylock’s DNA sample came back as a match from a sexual assault kit that was taken from the Debra in 1974. Also in 2006, Debra’s body was exhumed in order to collect an additional DNA sample from her. It was then submitted to the Serological Research Institute (SERI), which is a non-profit forensic lab in California.
Fresno County Sheriff’s Detectives Marty Rivera and Jeff Kertson then interviewed Blaylock who was in prison at the time. He denied having sex with Debra and killing her. Once detectives confronted him with a DNA match of his semen, Blaylock changed his story, saying he had consensual sex with Debra, but did not murder her. The District Attorney's Office filed the case, but it had to be dismissed due to insufficient evidence.
In December 2021, former Fresno County Sheriff’s deputy and current cold case Detective Sergio Toscano reviewed the case and requested a retest for DNA on the ligature (leotard) used to strangle Debra. Blaylock’s DNA results recently came back and showed up on the ligature and was reconfirmed on the sexual assault kit. As detectives worked to contact Blaylock, they discovered he died in the hospital in 2022. He was 66 years old. During his lifetime, Blaylock accumulated a lengthy criminal record, which included violent acts and becoming a registered sex offender.