A businessman has been charged with fatally stabbing a Minneapolis woman in 1993 after investigators ran DNA evidence from the murder scene through a genealogy website and obtained his DNA from a discarded napkin. Jerry Westrom, 52, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of 35-year-old Jeanne Ann "Jeanie" Childs.
The case was reopened in 2015 by a Minneapolis homicide detective and an FBI special agent, who decided to take another look because of advances in DNA testing. Childs had been stabbed multiple times all over her naked body, and blood covered the walls of her bedroom, living room and bathroom, according to a warrant.
Samples from the scene were sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and a private DNA company. The samples were later run through an online genealogy website, which turned up Westrom as a possible suspect.
Investigators then used the internet to determine where Westrom would be in public places and then secretly trailed him to his daughter's hockey game in Wisconsin in January. That's where investigators confiscated a napkin he had used and tossed in the trash.
Geneology websites gained attention last year after one was used to arrest a suspect in the decades-long hunt for the so-called according to CBS Minnesota.in California. "We all learned quite a bit from the Golden State Killer," Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said,
In that case, investigators turned to a site called GEDmatch, the largest, public DNA database in the U.S.,. It's popular with genealogy enthusiasts and good at finding family members.
After his arrest, Westrom denied to authorities that he was in Childs' apartment, CBS Minnesota reports. He said he did not know the victim and he did not have sex with any women in Minneapolis in 1993, the station reported.
Westrom posted $500,000 bail and was released from jail following a court hearing where his wife, children and 20 other supporters looked on from the gallery. Several members of Childs' family were also at the hearing in Hennepin County District Court.
Westrom's lawyer, Steven Meshbesher, told the court that Westrom had lived in Minnesota his entire life and wasn't a flight risk. "What we've got is a very unsolved case and it was charged, in my opinion, prematurely," Meshbesher said.
Westrom's next court date was set for March 13.