Photo: Marcello Maldonado-Perez; Mary Pierce.
(KCNC/Weld County Sheriff's Office)
GREELEY, Colo. (CBS/KCNC) Colorado authorities say a man wanted in a 32-year-old murder in Greeley has been arrested in Florida, thanks to a DNA "miracle of science."
Marcello Maldonado-Perez, 51, was arrested in Port Charlotte, Florida Tuesday. Police say he's responsible for kidnapping, raping and killing 22-year-old Mary Pierce in 1977.
Pierce was working at a 7-Eleven in Greeley when police say she was kidnapped. A customer altered authorities when he found the store empty. When Pierce's body was found two days later in a field outside town, investigators discovered she'd been stabbed repeatedly and sexually assaulted.
Investigators say DNA from a smock found at the crime scene ultimately led them to Maldonado-Perez. He submitted a DNA sample before his release from a Texas prison for another crime.
"In 1977 when we submitted the smock all they could tell us was that it was human blood and that was it," Weld County, Co. Sheriff John Cooke said to CBS Denver Affiliate KCNC.
Cooke said finding a match in a cold case like this is incredible.
VIDEO COURTESY OF CBS AFFILIATE KCNC
"This is exciting when we are able to take a case that's 32 years old and bring somebody to justice and to bring closure to the family, it's a miracle of science," said Cooke. "It's a great Christmas present I think for the family of Mary Pierce."
Cooks says investigators made the DNA match back in April and then spent the months since then making sure they had a good, solid case.
"After 32 years... you have to try to locate witnesses to see if they're still around, make sure they still remember what happened," Cooke said. "Also, to go through all the evidence."
Maldonado-Perez was arrested without incident. He's being held in Florida without bond.
Story Contributed by CBS Affiliate KCNC.