Watch CBS News

Jerry Westrom found guilty of murder in cold case killing of Jeanie Ann Childs

Jerry Westrom found guilty of murder in cold case killing of Jeanie Ann Childs
Jerry Westrom found guilty of murder in cold case killing of Jeanie Ann Childs 02:00

MINNEAPOLIS -- A jury has found Jerry Westrom guilty of first-degree premeditated murder and second-degree intentional murder in the 1993 death of 35-year-old Jeanie Ann Childs in south Minneapolis.

Westrom, 56,  was charged in the decades-old cold case after investigators followed him to a hockey game and grabbed a napkin that he threw in the trash. They used the napkin to obtain his DNA.

Jerry Westrom  Hennepin County

WCCO-TV's Jennifer Mayerle was in the courtroom Thursday afternoon and said the jury deliberated for two hours before asking Judge Juan G. Hoyas this question: "If we find the defendant guilty of first-degree murder, do we also fill out a form for second-degree murder?"

The defense ended its closing arguments early Thursday afternoon. Earlier in the morning, the prosecution presented its case, with attorney Darren Borg telling the jury that the state proved the five elements needed to find Westrom guilty of murder with intent. 

Borg's main points of what happened inside the Horn Towers in 1993: the prolonged attack moved from room to room, Childs had defensive wounds on her hands, and she was stabbed 65 times. Childs' mother, Betty Eakman, quietly sobbed and wiped her eyes as she listened.

Borg reminded the jury that investigators found Westrom's semen on a bloody comforter, and his DNA was on bloody items in the bathroom -- including a towel, washcloth, T-shirt and spots in the sink. The focus centered on a bloody footprint found near Childs' body.

"How do you get a bloody footprint? You step in liquid blood and you put your foot down," Borg said. "His footprints were in her blood because he killed her."

Borg advised the jury to not be misled by the defense's arguments. Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher used his closing to try to poke holes in the state's case. He attempted to discredit witnesses, highlight what investigators didn't do, and point the finger at an alternate suspect.

As for the DNA and bloody footprint, Meshbesher questioned when they were transferred there, and said footprint forensics is subjective.

"Somebody sick, pathological, murdered her. [Westrom] isn't the guy," Meshbesher said. "Don't compound the tragedy by convicting an innocent person."

Earlier in the trial, Meshbesher argued that Childs, who worked as a prostitute, could have been killed by another person, her alleged pimp, who lived in this same apartment complex. Some of the man's hairs were found in Childs' hand. That man died in 2017.

Meshbesher says he will appeal the verdict.

"Very disappointed. The jury did not see all the evidence. We had presented all the evidence, the judge said no," Meshbesher said. "Whatever happened was brutal, it's a question of who did it"

Thursday was a day Childs' mother has waited nearly 30 years for.

Jeanie Ann Childs CBS

"I know that the law is finally going to take care of him for what he did, and I hope he can sleep at night," Eakman said. "Jeanie was a wonderful person even though she had problems. She had a big heart."

Derek Fradenbergh is one of twelve jurors who deliberated for only two hours.

"It's undeniable that he was in that apartment, and the footprints place him in the apartment at the time of Jeanie Childs' death," Fradenbergh said.

He said Westrom's guilt was almost unanimous among the jury right after they got the case.

"Sure there will always be questions because no one saw this crime happen, but at the end of the day, the evidence against the defendant is so overwhelming," he said.

WCCO also spoke with two of three alternate jurors who were dismissed and are now allowed to share their thoughts. Both Monyou Taye and Dean Zimmerman say they would find Westrom guilty after hearing all the evidence.

"In the deliberation room I was going to find him guilty of first-degree murder for the case because of all the evidence," Taye said.

Zimmerman thought he was guilty of the lesser second-degree murder charge.

"I think it's very clear that he was there, made the footprints at the time she was murdered, and it's just too hard to argue with that," Zimmerman said.

Westrom, who is from Isanti, had been out on bail and could freely come and go from court. After the verdict was handed down, Westrom was put in handcuffs and taken out of court by a Hennepin County Sheriff's deputy.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement that he hopes the verdict brings some comfort to Childs' family.

"They have had to live without justice for her brutal murder for nearly three decades," Freeman said. "Today's guilty verdicts show that we will pursue convictions for serious crimes, even if it takes years to gather the evidence."

Judge Hoyas expects to sentence Westrom in the next few weeks

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.