The world is advancing and changing every single day, but one thing that will be an unfortunate constant is crime. Fortunately, as crime continues to exist and grow to fit the times, so do the methods used to solve them. In recent years, the art of crime solving has made leaps and bounds into the modern day by developing the science behind the art.
Using said sciences in the process of crime solving is referred to as forensics, and has helped solve many criminal mysteries that have eluded investigators for years. We will be looking at a few famous criminal cases solved by DNA evidence, where forensics helped bring truth into the light.
Below are seven criminal cases solved by DNA evidence:
1. Krystal Beslanowitch
In 1995, the body of 17 year old Krystal Beslanowitch was found along the Provo River. Tragically, she had suffered a fatal blow to the skull from an unknown assailant. There were leads to be found at the time in regards to who carried out the heinous act, but all leads ultimately wound up in dead ends.
The Krystal Beslanowitch case went cold for years up until a break in the case occurred in 2013. With the use of forensic technologies, investigators managed to extract touch DNA from the granite rock that was used to murder her. The DNA extracted was a positive match for one 46 year old Joseph Michael Simpson. Simpson was arrested and convicted for Krystal Beslanowitch’s murder in September of 2016.
Cold Case Murder of Krystal Beslanowitch, 1995 : Solved through forensic technologies.
A determined cop who was the original investigator into the murder of Krystal Beslanowitch 18 years ago in Utah helped bring resolution to this case.
— ANTHROPOLOGY REPORTS (@AnthropologyJfa) April 3, 2018
2. The Phoenix Canal Killings
Phoenix, Arizona was the setting of two cold blooded murders in the early 1990s. The first victim was a young woman who was dumped in the Arizona canal that runs through the city. Sadly, the victim was followed by another a mere ten months later. The second victim was murdered and disposed of in the same manner, leaving investigators to assume that the two were connected.
However, they simply did not have much more than that. As such, the case went cold until 2015, when a forensic genealogist by the name of Colleen Fitzpatrick used existing evidence and forensic science to bring the case back to life.
Fitzpatrick used a process that allowed her to cross reference DNA from evidence provided by police with established DNA databases that are available to the public. These databases are typically publicly available so that those interested in their family genealogy can find distant relatives. Naturally, this lead her to a lucky break for the cold investigation.
She had found a match, along with a name. A name that was actually on the list of suspects for the murder. Using the evidence provided, Bryan Patrick Miller was arrested for the Phoenix Canal murders in 2016.
Colleen Fitzpatrick of @Identifinders says they worked with a DNA sample containing only 7 percent of Robert Ivan Nichols’s genome. And with that, they were able to find his family & identify him. DNA is amazing. Imagine all the murderers who are shaking in their boots right now.
— CrimeCon (@CrimeConHQ) June 21, 2018
3. Sara Lynn Wineski
Sara Lynn Wineski lived in St. Petersburg, Florida. It was typically a relatively quiet town during the summer heat of May, 2005. However, one night was unfortunately disturbed by bone-chilling screams that seeming were coming from nowhere. Even after being reported on by the local news, it took until the following afternoon for residents to find the source of the haunting sounds. Sara Lynn Wineski was found dead, hidden beneath the deck of a local home.
St. Petersburg was gravely shaken after the murder of Sara Lynn Wineski. DNA evidence was collected at the crime scene, but no progress was made in the case until 2013. Investigators were able to link the DNA to suspect Raymond Samuels. Samuels was 31 when he became the prime suspect in the murder of Sara Lynn Wineski, but was already in prison for the attempted murder and kidnapping of another.
Murder of Sara Lynn Wineski:Sara Lynn Wineski, who was found strangled and raped outside a then-Ronald McDonald House in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 2005 DNA evidence was collected at the scene it was linked to Raymond Samuels, aged 31 as of this writing. Semen evidence linked him.
— Dna Analyst (@DNAAnalyst2) January 23, 2019
4. The Lake City Torso Murder
It is a sad truth that sometimes even a murder victim can go unidentified due to a variety of factors. In 1994, a case such as this occurred when the mutilated body of a young man was found hidden behind a gas station in Lake City, Florida.
The scene was grisly and one that wouldn’t be easy to forget, but there was fortunately plenty of DNA evidence to be found around the crime scene. This included a blood-soaked flannel shirt, a mattress cover, and even bloody knives that were most likely the murder weapon. Not only was there DNA of the victim at the scene, but there was also another party present that was assumed to be that of the murdered.
Unfortunately, however, the forensic sciences of the time were not exactly what they are today. This caused the horrific murder to go cold until 2015, when modern forensics were able to identify the victim as 16 year old Fred Laster, who sadly disappeared shortly before the body was found all those years ago.
With the victim’s identity secured, police were finally able to form a list of suspects close to the incident. This led them to Ronnie Leon Hyde, a prime suspect in the initial disappearance of Laster. Ronnie Leon Hyde, a former youth pastor and friend of the family, had changed his story several times whenever he was questioned about the disappearance. Using this suspicion, investigators compared the DNA found at the scene of the crime with that of Hyde’s. The investigators determined that Ronnie Leon Hyde was a perfect match, leading to his eventual arrest.
News4Jax continues to go through thousands of documents released by the FBI in the case of accused child killer Ronnie Hyde. We found Hyde was once a foster parent to Fred Laster. https://t.co/PTr8vBsdpT pic.twitter.com/dRCTeHoShd
— News4JAX (@wjxt4) May 13, 2018
5. The Murders of Spokane, Washington
In 1990, the murders of three sex workers in Spokane, Washington left investigators with little more than cold leads. The three women had been shot dead with a .22-caliber handgun, which lead investigators to believe that the murders were connected. Unfortunately, a solid connection simply couldn’t be found.
The case went cold until 2005, when it was reopened, but the break didn’t arrive until 2009, with the submittance of DNA evidence regarding the murders. Using this evidence, police matched it with that of Douglas Perry, who had transitioned to become Donna Perry in the year of the murders. Since 1990, Perry had been convicted of illegal possession of firearms and was serving prison time in Texas for it. That is, until she was moved back to Spokane to answer for the murders.
Defense attorneys in Donna Perry triple-murder trial say reasonable doubt not overcome https://t.co/az8jXWdEeH
— Nina Culver (@NinaCulver) June 28, 2017
6. Carolyn Heckert: Soccer Mom Killer
When dealing with forensic evidence, there are some rare moments when a suspect is linked up to even more mysteries. This was the case for 48 year old Carolyn Heckert, a real estate agent and mother from Smithville, Missouri.
Carolyn Heckert’s supposedly dark past began in 1989, when an 18 year old girl by the name of Sarah DeLeon was viciously stabbed to death in Kansas City, Kansas. Heckery, then known as Carolyn Coon, was well known for harassing and threatening the poor girl due to being spurned by her ex-boyfriend. Naturally, the ex-boyfriend had since gotten together with Ms. Sarah DeLeon, which investigators believe brought forth Carolyn’s jealous wrath.
There was no evidence capable of linking the young woman to the murder at the time, but forensic science had advanced enough by 2016 that they were able to use DNA evidence to link her to the murder. Carolyn Heckert was arrested that same year for the crime, although the case was dropped in the following year, allowing her to walk free.
However, the story of Carolyn Heckert is not quite finished, yet, as the DNA used in the Sarah DeLeon case investigation was connected to another murder. In 1994, Diana Ault was gunned down in front of her own children by an unknown assailant. The DNA evidence in question is once again pointing directly at Carolyn Heckert. The case of Diana Ault has not moved forward with this suspicion, however, so only time will tell if more will be added to this story.
Carolyn Heckert of Smithville, MO has been accused of killing Sarah DeLeon nearly 30 yrs ago-Spoke w/ neighbors. Details @ 6 @41ActionNews
— Rae Daniel (@RAEtheReporter) October 20, 2016
7. Anna Palmer
In 1998, a 10 year old girl known as Anna Palmer was attacked outside of her home. Sadly, this was not an attack that she would survive. As heinous and heartbreaking as this case was, the investigators poured all of their energy into securing justice for the murder, but the case simply found nothing to move forward with.
That is, until a forensic investigator in 2009 decided to examine the young girl’s fingernails for DNA samples. After a decade of being cold, the investigation was able to link DNA found under the girl’s fingernails to a nearby neighbor by the name of Matthew Brock.
Brock was already serving time in prison for another child-related crime, and has since plead guilty to the horrific murder. He is now serving a life sentence in prison.
Matt Breck pleads guilty in the 1998 murder of 10-year-old Anna Palmer. Sentenced to life without parole.
— Aaron Falk (@aaronfalk) August 12, 2011