A 1993 cold case came to an apparent conclusion last week as a Minnesota jury convicted 56-year-old Jerry Westrom of the murder of Jeanne Childs in Minneapolis.
“My condolences go out to the victim and her family. They have had to live without justice for her brutal murder for nearly three decades,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in a statement, according to Fox News.
“I hope this brings some closure to them. Today’s guilty verdicts show that we will pursue convictions for serious crimes, even if it takes years to gather the evidence.”
As noted by The Washington Post, Childs was stabbed multiple times before her body was found in a shower.
There was plenty of evidence in the apartment of Childs, a 35-year-old “known prostitute,” according to KMSP-TV. The evidence included a bloody footprint near her body and items that contained DNA from multiple individuals, according to the Post.
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) August 25, 2022
But in 1993, DNA technology had its limits. Once the pool of convicted felons was exhausted as potential suspects, the case had reached a dead end. It stayed there for 25 years.
In 2018, police tried what’s known as DNA genealogy to see what they could find in the case, which was 25 years old at that point.
The concept is to search public profiles of people who have wanted to learn about their ancestry to see if there are potential matches. DNA genealogy allows police to identify people who are not in a criminal justice database, and also have a small pool of potential suspects.
In this case, once Westrom’s name popped up, police learned he had lived in the Minneapolis area between 1991 and 1993, and that he had a 2016 conviction for soliciting a prostitute.
At that point, it became a question of old-fashioned police work. Police homed in on Westrom, who is now 56, and followed him to a hockey game in which his daughter was playing.
While Westrom was at the game, he ate a hot dog, wiped his face with a napkin and threw the napkin in the trash. Police then recovered the napkin and compared the DNA on the napkin to that found at the scene of the murder.
“When you discard a thing in the trash, the Supreme Court says it is fair game,” Freeman said, according to The Washington Post. “Saliva is one of the … ways to get DNA. The best I can tell, it was legitimate.”
Westrom “denied having been at the apartment complex, denied having been in the apartment, denied recognizing [Childs], and denied having had sex with any women in Minneapolis in 1993,” according to a complaint.
He said he did not know why his DNA was found at the scene of the crime.
Defense attorney Steve Meshbesher said he will appeal the verdict,
Westrom asked to hug his wife before he was cuffed…Deputy said he needed to cuff him. Westrom was escorted out by Hennepin County Deputies.
— Eric Chaloux (@EricChalouxKSTP) August 25, 2022
Childs’ mother, Betty Eakman, reacted to the verdict with relief.
“I know that the law is finally going to take care of him for what he did, and I hope he can sleep at night,” Eakman said, according to WCCO. “Jeanie was a wonderful person even though she had problems. She had a big heart.”
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.