10 Years-Old Cold Cases That Were Solved by Cigarettes

10 Years-Old Cold Cases That Were Solved by Cigarettes

Even amid mountains of proof—eyewitness accounts, composite sketches of a suspect, or DNA left behind by a killer—generally, instances go unsolved, leaving already grieving households with extra questions than solutions and with none closure for many years.

Because of developments in know-how and forensics, such because the CODIS database, which permits legislation enforcement and laboratories to gather and share details about convicted criminals, and forensic family tree, which makes use of DNA collected from against the law to hint and create a household tree for the suspect, an increasing number of chilly instances are lastly being solved.

Nevertheless, even with these developments, that doesn’t assure a felony will probably be dropped at justice, particularly in the event that they handle to evade DNA assortment. Fortunately, after the killers in these instances carelessly discarded their cigarette butts, that was sufficient to lastly crack these 10 chilly instances huge open.

Associated: Prime 10 Mysteries And Crimes Solved By The Web

10 Patricia Barnes

In August 1995, the physique of a 61-year-old homeless lady named Patricia Barnes was discovered bare with two gunshot wounds to the pinnacle after her killer dumped her physique in a ditch in Seattle, Washington. Regardless of over 100 items of proof collected from the scene and a witness who supplied particulars of a suspect to sketch artists, there have been no leads within the case.

In 2018, Barnes’s case was reopened, and the proof was despatched to crime labs in Washington, Texas, and Florida that specialised in forensic family tree in hopes of finding a relative of the killer. In 2021, one of many labs was capable of find a cousin of the suspect and later supplied police with a reputation—Douglas Keith Krohne. Krohne was a resident of the Seattle space throughout the time Barnes was killed and likewise had a felony historical past of theft and kidnapping. Nevertheless, Krohne died in 2016 throughout an unintended electrocution.

As soon as authorities had a reputation, they had been capable of cross-reference the DNA from their proof, particularly the cigarette butts, and match it to a blood pattern taken throughout Krohne’s post-mortem, which confirmed he killed Barnes. After almost three many years, Barnes’s household lastly received closure, realizing her killer was discovered.[1]

9 Paul Aikman

In 1985, 35-year-old Paul Aikman was stabbed to dying at a relaxation cease in Oklahoma. Whereas each fingerprints and cigarette butts had been collected as proof within the case, police had been unable to determine any potential suspects.

In 2019, detectives received a break within the case when an impromptu search of the nationwide DNA database, CODIS, linked the DNA from the cigarette butts to Earl Wayne Wilson. On the time, Wilson was already in an Oklahoma jail for the sexual assault of a 20-year-old lady. Whereas Wilson initially denied any half within the crime, he later pleaded responsible to Aikman’s homicide in 2021 in an settlement for a lowered cost and was sentenced to 20 years in jail.[2]

8 Tonya McKinley

Twenty-three-year-old Tonya McKinley had gone to Darryl’s Bar & Grille in Pensacola, Florida, to have a good time the upcoming new 12 months of 1985 however by no means returned dwelling to her 18-month-old son. Her physique was discovered half-naked after being sexually assaulted and strangled to dying on January 1, 1985. Police interviewed those that had visited the restaurant and McKinley’s family and friends, however no suspects had been ever discovered.

Nevertheless, as a result of advances in know-how and so many on-line laboratories that course of DNA for these seeking to discover long-lost relations, police had been capable of take the DNA from bodily fluids left behind and create a household tree that might cause them to McKinley’s killer—Daniel Wells. As soon as police had a reputation, they had been capable of observe Wells, and when he made the error of throwing a cigarette butt out the window, that was all of the proof they wanted to match the DNA and arrest him for McKinley’s homicide.

Wells was arrested on March 18, 2020, and was charged with first-degree homicide and sexual battery. Nevertheless, earlier than McKinley’s household may obtain any formal justice, Wells hung himself inside his cell.[3]

7 Roxanne Woods

Roxanne Woods and her husband Terry had spent the night of February 20, 1987, collectively bowling however had pushed dwelling individually. Roxanne arrived dwelling first, however when Terry arrived, he discovered his spouse lifeless of their kitchen along with her throat slit. Police suspected a person named Patrick Gillhem however by no means had any concrete proof to show his involvement.

Police did reopen Woods’s case in 2001 however by no means made any progress, and it wasn’t till 2021 that they’d get the break within the case that they had been in search of. Investigators acquired a “credible tip” that they need to certainly examine Gillhem as a suspect. Regardless that he had beforehand been convicted of rape in 1979 and lived within the space, he had no DNA out there within the CODIS database. Police then introduced in MSP Forensic Laboratories to take over the duty of analyzing the proof beforehand collected, however a lot of the DNA was degraded as a result of its age.

Nevertheless, utilizing a mixture of their pattern and reconstructing a household tree via family tree, they had been capable of match the DNA collected the evening of Wooden’s homicide to a cigarette butt Gillhem discarded throughout the time he was beneath surveillance. Gillhem was arrested on February 17, 2022, and was sentenced to 23 years in jail.[4]

6 Michael Lee

Twenty-nine-year-old Michael Lee, an ironworker and Indiana native, was visiting Arizona when he was discovered shot within the head on October 21, 1980. Whereas cigarette butts and different objects had been taken as proof, police had been by no means capable of make any progress in figuring out Lee’s killers.

Nevertheless, in June of 2018, the Yavapai Sheriff’s Workplace reopened the case and despatched the cigarette butts out for testing in hopes of creating a stable lead. The DNA outcomes got here again and had been recognized as David Ellsworth Widmer. As soon as DNA outcomes had been established and detectives continued their investigation, they had been additionally capable of uncover that Widmer—together with an confederate, Rocky Crabtree, each of whom had in depth felony backgrounds—had intentions of robbing Lee. Nevertheless, after they had been unable to find Lee’s cash, they shot him as an alternative. Whereas each Widmer and Crabtree died earlier than this proof was dropped at gentle, Lee’s household was grateful to lastly have solutions.[5]

5 Marilyn Hickey

On the night of September 9, 1992, Marilyn Hickey and an unknown man had been dropped off at her condominium in Bremerton, Washington, by a cab driver. This was the final time anybody would ever see her. She was later discovered strangled in her condominium. Police did recuperate a bit of paper in Hickey’s purse with the identify Lee Miller on it, however they had been by no means capable of find him.

Nevertheless, in 2006 law enforcement officials in Boise, Idaho, had been engaged on a separate chilly case after they found the DNA proof they discovered matched that of Hickey’s killer. Moreover, the police in Boise additionally got the identify Lee Miller, so right now, they started cross-referencing proof and likewise monitoring Lee. They obtained a cigarette butt he left exterior his residence, proving he was certainly the killer in each instances.

Lee pleaded responsible to killing Hickey and was sentenced to 17 years in jail for second-degree homicide. He additionally pleaded responsible to the Boise killing of 49-year-old Cheryle Barrat and was sentenced to an extra 25 years in jail.[6]

4 Jerri Ann Jones

Jerri Ann Jones was solely 19 years previous when she was kidnapped in July 1987 whereas ready for a experience exterior the Harris-Teeter grocery store in Charlotte, North Carolina, the place she labored. In hopes of getting anybody with info or the killer to come back ahead, Harris-Teeter President Robert Goodale even supplied a $10,000 reward, however no new proof got here to gentle.

In 2003, the Charlotte Chilly Case Squad was established in hopes of utilizing developments in know-how and forensics to resolve previous instances. As soon as cigarette butts and semen specimens from Jones’s case had been entered into the CODIS database, they matched the DNA to Terry Alvin Hyatt. Fortunately, they knew precisely the place he was; Hyatt was already on dying row on the time for killing two different ladies. Hyatt pleaded responsible to killing Jones on August 2, 2005, and was sentenced to life in jail.[7]

3 Anita Piteau

Anita Piteau left her dwelling in Maine within the 1960s, hoping to make it large in Hollywood. Nevertheless, on March 14, 1968, her physique was discovered crushed, raped, and with a slit throat. What made Piteau’s case much more disturbing was that for the subsequent 52 years, each she and her killer would go unidentified.

Police collected clothes, jewellery, and cigarette butts from the scene and distributed drawings of the “Jane Doe” in hopes that somebody would or may determine her. Nonetheless, neither the drawings nor the proof produced any leads.

Then, in 2019, utilizing the DNA from the cigarette butt discovered together with family tree analysis, police lastly recognized the killer—Johnny Chrisco, who died of most cancers in 2015. In 2020, police enlisted the assistance of Colleen Fitzpatrick, an professional in forensic family tree. She was capable of observe Piteau’s DNA to a relative who was nonetheless dwelling in Maine. After 52 lengthy years, “Jane Doe” was lastly recognized, and her stays had been despatched again to her household in Maine.[8]

2 Angie Dodge

Eighteen-year-old Angie Dodge had moved into her first condominium in Idaho Falls in late 1996 however was later discovered crushed, raped, and along with her throat slit so severely it almost decapitated her. In 1997, Christopher Tapp confessed to killing Dodge; nonetheless, his confession solely got here after being coerced by police, who implied he would face the dying penalty if he didn’t fess up. Regardless that Tapp’s DNA didn’t match that collected from the scene, and he later retracted his confession because of the circumstances, he spent 20 years behind bars for against the law he didn’t commit.

Even with a conviction, Dodge’s case was nonetheless thought of a chilly case as a result of the precise killer had by no means been discovered. Dodge’s mom, Carol, spent the subsequent 20 years refusing to surrender on discovering her daughter’s killer and exonerating Tapp. Lastly, in 2017, via efforts of each Carol and the Innocence Mission, Tapp was launched.

In 2019, investigators started looking public family tree databases and labored alongside genetic genealogist CeCe Moore at Parabon Laboratories, who was capable of create a household tree primarily based on the DNA collected. By way of this course of, they had been capable of find a suspect, Brian Dripps, who lived throughout the road from Angie when she was murdered. He was additionally initially questioned throughout the investigation.

Police started following Dripps and picked up cigarette butts as he carelessly discarded them. As soon as that they had a number of samples, these had been despatched for testing and had been a confirmed match to the DNA they discovered on Dodge. Dripp was arrested and confessed, stating he was beneath the affect of medication on the time and by no means meant to kill Dodge. He was sentenced to life in jail on June 8, 2021.[9]

1 Sarah Yarborough

Sixteen-year-old Sarah Yarborough was on her strategy to college in December 1991 in preparation for a drill workforce occasion. Her physique was discovered close to her highschool in Washington later that morning, crushed and strangled to dying. Witnesses within the space assisted police in making sketches of the individual believed to be the killer. Over the subsequent 20 years, police repeatedly searched DNA databases in hopes of creating a connection, however the case appeared to go nowhere.

Nevertheless, in 2019 after utilizing forensic family tree searches, a suspect was lastly recognized—Patrick Nicholas. Nicholas was beforehand convicted of rape in 1983, however since his conviction was earlier than CODIS was established, he went undetected by legislation enforcement. He was additionally later arrested in 1993 for youngster molestation, however the expenses had been pled all the way down to a misdemeanor which meant he once more prevented having to offer DNA.

With Nicholas on their radar, detectives then started shut surveillance and had been capable of retrieve cigarette butts and a serviette he left exterior of a neighborhood strip mall. The DNA on these objects matched the samples collected in 1991. Nicholas was arrested in October 2019 and continues to be awaiting trial.[10]

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Written by Harry Rosen

Harry Rosen is an accomplished explorer, photographer, creative director, speaker, and author.

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