A 64-year-old St. Louis Park man was found guilty Wednesday of fatally beating a 17-year-old Minneapolis girl in 1983.
A Hennepin County district judge found Darrell Rea guilty of second-degree murder, County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Wednesday in a news release.
DNA evidence led to the September 2017 arrest of Rea in the April 2, 1983, death of Laurie Mesedahl in north Minneapolis.
In April, the case was heard without a jury by Judge Tamara Garcia. She filed the guilty verdict Wednesday.
DNA technology did not exist when Mesedahl's body was found in the Soo Line Railroad yard near N. 28th Avenue, but investigators kept her bloody clothes and DNA evidence taken from her body.
According to the criminal complaint and evidence submitted to the judge, Mesedahl was at a party the night of April 1, but was home by 2:30 a.m. the next day before slipping out of the house again. She knocked on the door of a friend's house at N. 32nd and Bryant avenues about 3 a.m., but was not allowed inside. Her body was found nearby.
An autopsy and other evidence showed that Mesedahl was raped, choked to unconsciousness, driven to the train yard, dragged to an area between two sets of train tracks and beaten to death.
The discovery of Mesedahl's killer was linked to developments in a similar case, Freeman said in a news release. In 1988, a woman in Minneapolis was picked up by a man who raped her, strangled her and assaulted her with a sharp object. She escaped with some of her attacker's blood on her clothes. In 1993, new DNA technology was used on that blood sample and it matched Rea's profile.
While the statute of limitations had run out on that assault case and he could not be charged, police now had his DNA, Freeman said.
In 2013, as part of its cold- case investigations, police asked state investigators to test the DNA sample taken from Mesedahl's body. It was matched to Rea. In 2015, police arrested him and questioned him about Mesedahl's death. Further investigation led to enough evidence to file the charges in September 2017.
Rea will be sentenced May 6. He is subject to criminal penalties contained in 1983 state sentencing guidelines — 10 years in prison.