Genealogy site leads to arrest in murder case in 1993



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A businessman was accused of fatally stabbing a woman in Minneapolis in 1993 after investigators analyzed the DNA evidence of the murder scene on a genealogy website and obtained her DNA from a thrown towel.

Jerry Westrom, 52, has been charged with second degree murder in the death of Jeanne Ann "Jeanie" Childs, 35 years old. He paid $ 500,000 bail and was released after a court hearing where his wife, children and 20 other supporters watched the platform.

Several members of the Childs family also attended the hearing in the Hennepin County District Court.

Westrom's attorney, Steven Meshbesher, told the court that Westrom had lived in Minnesota all his life and that it posed no risk of escape.

"What we have is a very unresolved case and it has been accused, in my opinion, prematurely," said Meshbesher.

According to court documents, Childs' naked body was found in his apartment in an area known for prostitution. She had been stabbed several times all over her body and blood had covered the walls of her bedroom, living room and bathroom, according to a warrant for arrest.

The bathroom was flooded because the shower had been left on. Traces of fingers, palm and foot were found on the scene, investigators said.

The case was reopened in 2015 by a Minneapolis homicide detective and an FBI special agent, who decided to take a fresh look because of advances in DNA testing. Samples of the scene were sent to the Office of Criminal Apprehension of the State and to a private company of DNA.

The samples were then analyzed on an online genealogy website, which allowed Westrom to become a possible suspect.

The investigators then used the Internet to determine Westrom's position in public places, and then secretly dragged him to his daughter's hockey game in Wisconsin in January. It is there that the investigators confiscated a napkin that he had used and thrown in the trash.

The next Westrom hearing was scheduled for March 13th.

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