Napkin, genealogy site leads to arrest in 1993 murder case

Minnesota man whose dirty napkin led to his arrest in 1993 murder released after posting $500,000 bond

Minnesota man whose dirty napkin led to his arrest in 1993 murder released after posting $500,000 bond

Investigators say 52-year-old Jerry Westrom was identified as a suspect after a close match to DNA found at the 1993 crime scene was discovered on a genealogy website, the Pioneer Press reports.

Westrom did not know that while he watched the hockey game, police were watching him.

Westrom was arrested after detectives chose to take another look at the cold case by conducting new tests on DNA samples and running them through an online genealogy website, which turned up Westrom as a possible suspect, according to prosecutors.

According to the complaint, a tenant in Childs' Minneapolis apartment building at the time called police after seeing water coming from her apartment. That's where investigators confiscated a napkin he'd used and tossed in the trash, according to police.

Public genealogy databases have been used in other recent cases, including the capture last April of the suspected Golden State Killer in northern California.

Samples from the scene were sent to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and a private DNA company.

"We all hope Jeanne's family can finally find peace as a result of this tenacious effort by officers and agents", Jill Sanborn, the special agent in charge of the Minneapolis division of the F.B.I., said in a statement.

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The BCA said the DNA on the napkin was consistent with DNA collected from the apartment where Childs was killed, and that gave them probable cause to arrest Westrom.

Westrom was charged with second-degree murder and was released from jail on Friday after posting a $500,000 bond, according to the AP.

Several members of Childs' family were at the hearing in Hennepin County District Court.

His attorney Steven Meshbesher attempted to raise doubts about the DNA evidence in court on Friday, noting that Childs worked as a prostitute, according to Minnesota Public Radio.

"What we've got is a very unsolved case and it was charged, in my opinion, prematurely", Meshbesher said.

Westrom's next court is scheduled for March 13.

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