HENNEPIN COUNTY, MN — Police say a napkin played a key part in the breakthrough of a murder case from 1993. Jerry Westrom, 52, of Isanti, was charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of 35-year-old Jeanie Childs on June 13, 1993 in a south Minneapolis apartment.
Investigators used the help of a genealogist and a commercial genealogy website to zero in on Westrom as a suspect. They also learned that he lived in the Twin Cities metro during the time of Childs’ murder.
When police arrested Westrom Monday at his Waite Park business office, they took a DNA swab from him and it matched DNA found in the apartment where Childs was killed.
“The process is similar to the one used in the Golden State Killer case,” Freeman said in a statement.
At the time of Childs’ murder, DNA was in use. However, Westrom did not have a felony record, so no DNA would have been on file for him. With the assistance of a genealogist and a commercial genealogy site, Minneapolis police were able to narrow down to two people who could be responsible to the DNA in the apartment.
Police started to follow Westrom and, at a hockey game, watched him use a napkin to wipe his mouth and then toss it in the trash, Freeman said. The investigators retrieved it and testing indicate it was a likely match, according to a news release.
“When you discard a thing in the trash, the Supreme Court says it is fair game,” Freeman said. “Saliva is one of the principal ways to get DNA. The best I can tell, it was legitimate.”
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