Cowlitz County Detectives Say 40-Year-Old Cold Case of Murdered Girl Still Open


Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office detectives say they are using new technology to solve a 40-year-old murder of a Kalama girl that has been incorrectly linked to a local child killer.

Chila Silvernails, 8, was discovered dead on April 21, 1982, near Shirley Gordon Road in Kalama, and notorious local murderer Joseph Kondro was suspected in her killing. Chief Criminal Deputy Troy Brightbill said there was “no strong evidence linking him to the case,” and the search for the killer continues today.

“I want to get people talking about the case, stir up their memories and see if something comes up,” he said. “If the person who did this is out there, I want them to feel some anxiety because we aren’t going to let this go.”


‘Open Minded’

The department says there have been “persons of interest” in Chila’s case over the years, but the young girl’s killer has never been identified.

Kondro died in 2012 while serving a life sentence for the rape and killing of two other Longview girls: 8-year-old Rima Traxler in 1985 and 12-year-old Kara Rudd in 1996.

Brightbill said detectives are re-examining Chila’s case using new DNA matching technology, and reviewing whether the murder was done by a one-time killer or repeated offender.

“We have to be open minded,” he said.


Chila’s nearly nude body was found stabbed and asphyxiated in a creek about three miles from her Martin Bluff home, near Shirley Gordon Road in Kalama, according to a previous Daily News report.

Deputies say she was last seen the day before walking down her driveway to her school bus stop. Her mom reported her missing when she learned Chila didn’t arrive to school that day.

Chila’s parents are no longer alive, said her sister Kimberly Williams, 58. Williams, who was 18 when her little sister was discovered murdered, said she continuously relives the loss.

“It’s just plain hard,” Williams said. “Holidays are hard, April 20 is hard, her birthday is hard.”


Investigation Continues

Brightbill said the department is testing evidence using new DNA technology, which can test more materials today than in previous years. He said DNA matching sites work with law enforcement to find matches not in the criminal database, like in the case of the Golden State Killer — a prolific California serial killer named Joseph James DeAngelo who was arrested in 2018 when investigators linked crime scene DNA to his relatives using DNA matching sites like

Cowlitz County detectives, who have already conducted hundreds of interviews in Chila’s case, have also questioned people within the last year, Brightbill said.

When deputies are confined to desk work due to medical reasons, they type the hundreds of pages of hand-written narratives from the case to use keyword searches on names or locations and find links within interviews.

“We’re not giving up on this case,” Brightbill said. “We’re 40 years in, a lot of people have moved on, but for us, this was an 8-year-old girl who deserves justice.”

To report information, call Detective Caity Neill at 360-577-3092. Anonymous tips can be made at