Top 10 Cold Cases Solved with DNA

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Top 10 Cold Cases Solved with DNA

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Science wins again! For this list, we'll be looking at criminal cases that were solved years later with the help of DNA analysis. Our countdown includes The Murder of Sherri Rasmussen, The Boston Strangler, The Golden State Killer, and more.
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Top 10 Cold Cases Solved with DNA


Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 cold cases solved with DNA.

For this list, we’ll be looking at criminal cases that were solved years later with the help of DNA analysis.

Which of these stories do you find the most fascinating? Let us know in the comments!

#10: The Oldest Cold Case Solved with DNA

In June of 2021, a cold case from 1956 was finally solved. This 65 year gap makes it the oldest American cold case ever solved with the use of DNA. In January 1956, teenage couple Duane Bogle and Patricia Kalitzke (kuh-LIT-skee) were found dead. Three dozen suspects were questioned in the case, but the suspect was never caught. However, the killer may have been living right under their noses, just one mile from Kalitzke. In 2001, a single sperm cell was found on a vaginal swab. Detectives then used genetic genealogy to identify a new suspect - the now deceased Kenneth Gould. DNA taken from Gould’s children confirmed the results.

#9: Beer Can DNA

In the winter of 1996, the manager of Orlando’s Lil’ Champ Food Store was found dead. The man, Terence Paquette (puh-KET), had been stabbed to death. The case went unsolved for decades, until the Orange County Sheriff’s Office opened a cold case unit in the late 2010s. In the store, detectives found droplets of blood that didn’t belong to the victim. It was believed that the killer had injured himself in the attack. This blood was tested through genetic genealogy and pointed to a man named Kenneth Stough Jr. (stao) Stough was put under surveillance, and when a detective noticed him throwing out a beer can, he swabbed it for DNA. It was a match and led to Stough’s arrest.

#8: The Murder of Sherri Rasmussen

Recent university graduate Sherri Rasmussen was hoping to become a critical care nurse. Instead, she was killed in February of 1986. After police found her body in her apartment, they concluded there had been a botched burglary. But Ramussen’s father wasn’t convinced, suspecting LAPD officer Stephanie Lazarus, the former lover of Ramussen’s husband. Police were dismissive, telling him he watched too much television. But decades later, in 2009, other detectives revisited the case and covertly collected DNA evidence from a cup that Lazarus had discarded. The sample matched DNA from a bite mark on Rasmussen’s body. Lazarus was sentenced to 27 years to life in prison.

#7: The Killing of Patricia Beard

In July of 2013, Denver police solved its 100th DNA cold case. The case was that of 32-year-old Patricia Beard, who was found dead in her apartment back in 1981. Investigators realized that the killer had climbed a pipe and entered Beard’s apartment through the window. The apartment was swabbed for DNA, but the case quickly went cold. Decades later, a man named Hector Bencomo-Hinojos (ECK-tore ben-COMO ee-NO-HOSE) was arrested and sent to federal prison in Pennsylvania. As is custom, a DNA sample was taken from the prisoner and fed into the federal database. It matched the DNA found at the Beard crime scene, and the defeated Bencomo-Hinojos pled guilty to her murder.

#6: The Seattle Slaying

This killer almost got away with it. Back in January of 1972, Samuel Evans broke into the home of Jackson and Daisy Schley (shlee), killed Jackson, and assaulted Daisy. Daisy survived the attack but died in 2007 without seeing justice done. Just two years later, the 73 year old Evans was released from prison on unrelated charges. When he moved to Washington state, he was required to give a DNA sample as a registered sex offender. It matched the DNA taken from Daisy’s clothing. So back into handcuffs Evans went. Decades after the crime, he was formally charged in the case.

#5: The Murder of Krystal Beslanowitch

On the cold winter morning of December 15, 1995, the body of Krystal Beslanowitch was found on the bank of Utah’s Provo River. Despite extensive efforts, the trail went cold. However, the case was eventually reopened in 2006 and the DNA taken from the crime scene was studied with more advanced technologies. It was eventually matched to an ex-convict named Joseph Simpson, who was arrested for a separate killing back in 1987. Investigators tracked down Simpson, who was now living in Florida with his mother. They put him under surveillance and collected DNA from a cigarette he smoked. It was a match to the DNA found at the Beslanowitch crime scene, and Simpson was once again arrested.

#4: The Grim Sleeper

Between 1984 and 2007, the Grim Sleeper killed at least ten people, including a teenage girl. However, he was supposedly inactive between 1988 and 2002, leading to his unique moniker. The Grim Sleeper evaded police for decades. In 2008, the DNA of one Christopher Franklin, who had been convicted of a felony, was found to closely match the DNA taken from the Grim Sleeper. While Christopher was too young to have committed the ‘80s killings, investigators took an interest in his father, Lonnie David Franklin Jr.. Pretending to be a waiter, an undercover police officer collected a pizza that Lonnie had partially eaten. The DNA was a match, and Lonnie was arrested.

#3: The Boston Strangler

This notorious case terrorized the east coast of the United States. Between 1962 and 1964, 13 women were killed in the Boston area. Many were strangled with a nylon stocking. The crimes were eventually attributed to a man named Albert DeSalvo, who confessed and recounted many details that had been kept from the public. He was imprisoned for life, but the veracity of his confession has been debated. In 2013 however, investigators took DNA from DeSalvo’s living nephew. It closely matched DNA found at one of the crime scenes. DeSalvo’s body was subsequently exhumed, and his DNA was found to be an exact match.

#2: BTK

Playing to a killer’s ego often reaps rich rewards. BTK killed ten people between 1974 and 1991. The case became notorious for both the number of victims and because the killer sent taunting letters to the media. However, the case went cold after 91, and BTK probably would have gotten away with it if he didn’t get cocky. In 2004, he again began communicating with the media. BTK asked the police if a floppy disk could be traced, and when they encouraged him to send one in, he did so. Investigators found metadata on the disc linking it to one Dennis Rader. DNA taken from Rader’s daughter closely matched the DNA taken from a crime scene, and Rader was arrested. He is currently serving life in prison.

#1: The Golden State Killer

One of California’s most notorious criminals, the Golden State Killer killed at least 13 people between 1974 and 1986. He also committed dozens of sexual assaults and 120 home invasions. The case went cold for decades, until investigators fed the killer’s DNA into a family genetics website. By building family trees, they were able to trace the DNA to an elderly man named Joseph DeAngelo. DNA was taken from the door handle of DeAngelo’s car and a tissue he’d thrown out. It was a direct match to the Golden State Killer, and DeAngelo was finally arrested. On August 21, 2020, shortly before DeAngelo turned 75, he was sentenced to life in prison.
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