It was 2019 when, during a hockey game, Jerry Westrom threw a paper towel into a trash can, but he didn’t know that at that moment he would give the police the missing piece of the puzzle, for a murder case which remained unsolved for almost 30 years.
Now, the 56-year-old from Minnesota has been found guilty of her murder sex worker Gene Childs.
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More specifically, it was June 13, 1993, when the sex worker was found stabbed to death in her apartment in Minneapolis. Police had found DNA at the crime scene but could not link it to anyone at the time.
According to “Washington Post”, Childs had multiple injuries all over her body. Evidence inside the apartment indicated a protracted attack, which unfolded from room to room.
Items collected from the apartment contained genetic material, but it did not match the DNA of any of those convicted of the crime.
All this, until 2018, when authorities turned to genealogy websites for help.
“Today’s guilty verdict shows that we can pursue convictions for serious crimes, even if it takes years to gather the evidence,” said District Attorney Mike Freeman.
Someone “morbidly ill” killed Childs, Westrom’s attorney, Steve Mesbeser, said, adding that he was not his principal and that an appeal would be filed.
During the trial, the lawyer argued that Childs’ alleged promoter, who died in 2017, could have been the killer because his hair was found on the woman’s hands.
Authorities have been trying for nearly three decades to find out who killed Childs.
How they came to the solution of the mystery
Following information gleaned from commercial genealogy websites, officers narrowed down to two possible suspects. One was Westrom. There were other pieces of evidence pointing to him, such as the fact that in 2016 he was convicted of exporting a sex worker. So in 2019, they organized an expedition to a hockey game.
After seeing Westrom throw away a used paper towel and a paper hot dog tray, officers searched the trash. They ran a comparison with the DNA samples they had located at the crime scene and they matched. Thus, Westrom was arrested.
When questioned, he denied that he had been to Childs’ apartment, that he did not know her, and that he had had sex with any woman in Minneapolis in 1993. He also said that he did not know why his DNA was found at the crime scene.
In June 2020, he was charged with first degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence under Minnesota law. His sentence will be announced in the coming weeks.