A Minnesota man has been charged with second-degree murder in connection with a 1993 cold case after police used a genealogy site to identify him as a suspect and a discarded napkin to obtain DNA evidence.
Jerry Westrom, 52, was charged in the death of Jeanne Ann “Jeanie” Childs, a 35-year-old woman whose naked body was found in her blood-covered apartment. She had been stabbed multiple times all over her body, a warrant says.
Westrom was identified as a suspect by running DNA samples from the case through an online genealogy website, prosecutors said.
The investigation involved tailing Westrom in January to his daughter’s hockey game in Wisconsin.
There, Westrom ate a hot dog and threw a used napkin in the trash, the New York Times reports. Authorities retrieved the napkin from the trash and used it to obtain DNA linking Westrom to the cold case, the newspaper reports, citing court records.
Last year, police in Washington State used a similar process to make a cold case arrest in connection with the 1986 murder of a 12-year-old girl. The arrest came after police collected a napkin the suspect used during breakfast at a restaurant, KING-TV, Seattle reported.
Genealogy websites have also recently been used in several high-profile cold case investigations. Among the most notable: Authorities attributed a break in Golden State Killer case to DNA evidence gathered from a genealogy website.
Police can use genealogy websites in this way because there aren’t privacy laws barring them from doing so, said Steve Mercer, chief attorney for the forensic division of the Maryland Office of the Public Defender.
Westrom posted $500,000 bond Friday and was released from jail.
Contributing: Ashley May and Christal Hayes, USA TODAY; The Associated Press