'Touch DNA' nets Hopkins suspect

  • Article by: JIM ADAMS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 18, 2008 - 12:11 AM

Thanks to some advanced technology, charges are expected today against a St. Paul man in the death of a 90-year-old woman.

The man accused of killing a 90-year-old woman was visiting someone else in her Hopkins apartment building the day of the slaying and had recently been released from prison after serving time for aggravated robbery, police said Thursday.

Corey Omar Posley-Wells, 27, of St. Paul, is expected to be charged today with killing Irene Kunze, who was found dead in her home on July 7. Police linked him to the crime scene using a relatively new type of DNA technology that matched his DNA to that found in skin or body-fluid traces in her apartment.

Hopkins Police Chief Craig Reid wouldn't talk about a motive or why the suspect was visiting Kunze's building, but details are expected by noon today when the criminal complaint is filed.

Posley-Wells, who was arrested in St. Paul on Wednesday night, was released in March after serving seven years for first-degree aggravated robbery. He also has several felony convictions, including theft.

"The county attorney's office firmly believes he is the right person," said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman. Posley-Wells is being held in the county jail.

Kunze, who died from what authorities described as "sharp force injuries," was found by her daughter the night of July 7 after Kunze didn't answer phone calls.

It still isn't clear whether the assault was random, said police spokeswoman Connie Kurtz. She said there's no indication whether anything was taken from the apartment. Police found no signs of forced entry or a struggle.

Police did find a sharp object they think is the murder weapon but have not said what it was.

Traces of tissue lead to profile

Reid and Freeman said this was first time "touch DNA" technology has been used to identify a suspect in a Hennepin County case. The county sheriff's crime lab recently began using the technology, which enables crime scene technicians to recover minute traces of skin, sweat or body fluids left on clothing or objects to develop a DNA profile. The touch analysis is able to create DNA profiles from samples smaller than a pinhead, and has been refined over the years, officials said.

Sheriff Rich Stanek said Posley-Wells was one of several people of interest who were interviewed and whose DNA samples were taken. His DNA matched a sample found in Kunze's apartment.

Touch DNA "is an amazing development. A great thing for police work," Reid said.

He said the sheriff's narcotics unit and the Northwest Metro Drug Task Force played a significant role in identifying the suspect. But he wouldn't say whether the suspect was a drug user or whether there were any drug connections to the case.

Sense of security restored

The arrest was a relief for residents of the Hopkins Plaza Apartments, where Kunze lived on the second floor.

Wathana Philaphandeth, who recently moved to the complex, said the slaying was surprising and very scary to her family. "It is good that they caught him. I am glad, especially in this neighborhood with a lot of kids around," she said.

Tenant Cassie Starrett added: "I think there will be a sense of security back for people living here."

A memorial service for Kunze will be held at 2 p.m. Monday, at Mizpah United Church of Christ in Hopkins.

Jim Adams • 612-673-7658

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