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DNA advances enabled arrest in 1980 homicide

Posted by: Matt McKinney under Public safety Updated: September 12, 2012 - 3:37 PM

By Matt McKinney, Nicole Norfleet and James Eli Shiffer

 

Mary Cathryn Steinhart

Mary Cathryn Steinhart

A DNA match from scrapings from under the fingernails of a murder victim enabled Minneapolis detectives to find a suspect, 32 years after the killing in an Uptown apartment.

Robert William Skogstad, 57, was taken into custody in Kansas on suspicion of murdering Mary Cathryn Steinhart in November 1980, Minneapolis police announced at a Wednesday news conference. Skogstad was a former caretaker of the apartment building at 3242 Girard Av. S., but investigators said he no longer had that job at the time of the killing and they don’t believe Steinhart knew him.

Steinhart was a medical technician at a urology clinic in downtown Minneapolis. She was found by her sister on Nov. 25, 1980, in her basement apartment, dead of stab wounds, a butcher knife nearby. She had been raped. She was 22.

The building’s owner since 1965, Robert Haugh, said Wednesday that he was hoping to hire Steinhart as his new caretaker. There was no sign the apartment had been broken into.

Skogstad wasn’t a suspect at the time, police said. He has a criminal history of burglary and a sexual assault in California.

Thanks to advances in DNA technology, and a grant from the National Institute of Justice, investigators can use test much smaller samples to see if they match DNA in a national database. The fingernail

Robert William Skogstad

Robert William Skogstad

scrapings, along with other evidence, were tested and matched Skogstad’s DNA, police said.

In February 2011, Sgt. Barbara Moe and Sgt. Tammy Diedrich traveled to the sheriff’s office in Johnson County, Kansas, to interview Skogstad. He denied involvement in Steinhart’s death, police said. But a year and a half later, police assembled their case and filed a murder charge. Investigators said rape was the motive.

 

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