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DNA On Napkin Gives Investigators Break In 25-Year-Old Cold Case

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- An Isanti County man is now behind bars facing charges in connection with a 25-year-old murder.

WCCO's Reg Chapman has more on the technology used to track him down.

For 25 years, the murder of 35-year-old Jeanne Childs was a mystery.

She was found brutally stabbed to death in her Minneapolis apartment in 1993. DNA was collected at the scene, and now, investigators say it matches that of Jerry Westrom.

"We all learned quite a bit from the Golden State Killer," said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.

In that case, investigators used a genealogy website called GED Match to find a man they'd been looking for, for nearly 40 years.

Minneapolis investigators did the same thing and either Westrom or a close relative used the website, giving them what they needed to make a match with DNA left inside Childs' apartment.

"In order to tie everything to Mr. Westrom, they got a DNA sample when he was at a hockey game. He used a napkin then threw it away, and they got enough DNA off of the napkin," Freeman said.

Freeman says this is good police work, and because of it, he believes they had enough evidence to charge Westrom.

"When you discard things in the trash, the Supreme Court often says it's free game. And so he discarded the napkin in a container and threw it in the trash, so they could get it, " Freeman said.

According to the criminal complaint, a mixture of two or more peoples' DNA was recovered on one of the samples taken from the crime scene.

"There were two suspects, but only Mr. Westrom matched on numbers of different samples taken from the place -- that's why he's the person we believe done it," Freeman said.

In an interview after his arrest, Westrom denied being in the apartment. He said he did not know the victim, and said he did not have sex with any women in Minneapolis in 1993.

When confronted with the DNA evidence, he told investigators he had no idea why his DNA would be present at that scene.

Westrom's first court appearance is set for Friday.

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