DNA left at the scene of a woman’s 1993 stabbing death in south Minneapolis helped lead authorities to her suspected killer decades later, police said Tuesday.
The 52-year-old man, a married father of two grown children from Isanti, was arrested by members of the Police Department’s Violent Criminal Apprehension Team in Waite Park, next to St. Cloud. He was booked into Hennepin County jail late Monday, where he is being held without bail on suspicion of murder. He has yet to be charged, and the Star Tribune generally does not identify suspects before they are charged.
Jeanne Ann “Jeanie” Childs, 35, was found stabbed to death in the bedroom of her apartment in the 3100 block of Pillsbury Avenue on the afternoon of June 13, 1993. In a particularly deadly year when the city logged 56 homicides, her killing received scant news coverage.
After the medical examiner’s office classified her death as a homicide, police began to investigate. But with few leads, the trail eventually went cold. That was until 2015, when advances in DNA testing prompted authorities to take another look at the case. Samples of an unknown DNA profile found at the crime scene were shipped off to the BCA and an unnamed “private DNA company,” police said.
A break came after detectives ran the sample through an online genealogy website, relying on a process that countless others have used to find long-lost relatives and map out their family trees. In recent years, the controversial tactic has been used in other parts of the country to solve years-old cases.
“We all hope Jeanne’s family can finally find peace as a result of this tenacious effort by officers and agents,” said Jill Sanborn, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Minneapolis field office, whose agency joined city police, the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office on the case. “This case underscores law enforcement’s ability use every tool at its disposal to crack a case.”
Her mother, Betty Eakman, said Jeanne deserves justice. “My daughter was stabbed about 38 times and no matter what went on in her life … she was my daughter, and I loved her,” she told KMSP-TV news.
After Tuesday’s announcement, city leaders commended the investigators on the case, with police Chief Medaria Arradondo saying the arrest was an example of how “our efforts to increase public safety and ensure justice has no timeline.”
Police spokesman John Elder told reporters at a news conference Tuesday that a motive for the slaying may be revealed in charging documents. He said the victim and suspect had no known relationship, making it a “horribly difficult” case to crack.
“That’s what makes these sort of cases so hard to solve,” he said. “Through forensics and updated technology we’re able to come back and get people placed under arrest for crimes they committed long ago,” he said.
When reached by phone Tuesday, the suspect’s father said his son was living and working in Minneapolis at the time of Childs’ death and had yet to marry his now-wife.
Asked whether his son confided or even hinted of a deadly criminal deed, the man said, “No, I never knew about it.”
The man said he spoke with his son’s wife Tuesday morning, and “she heard about him being in jail but didn’t give me the particulars” about why.
He said the suspect was raised in the Elbow Lake area, about 30 miles northwest of Alexandria. According to the man’s blog, which had gone dormant in recent months, the suspect spent years working as a commodity broker “in the field of crop revenue management and helped craft the farm bill known as the Agricultural Act of 2014,” before turning to farming.
Court records show that the suspect has a minor criminal history, including a brief jail stint in 2015; he got off probation a year ago Tuesday after being convicted in Stearns County of trying to solicit a prostitute. Minneapolis police confirmed Tuesday that the man had been on the radar of authorities in Isanti County in an unrelated matter.
The arrest comes less than two months after police announced a breakthrough in another cold case from the early 1990s. In mid-December, authorities arrested and later charged a man in the 1991 stabbing death of 20-year-old Belinda Thompson, also on the city’s South Side.