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Napkin, genealogy site leads to arrest in 1993 Minnesota murder case

A businessman is charged with fatally stabbing a Minneapolis woman in 1993 after investigators ran DNA evidence from the murder scene through a genealogy website and obtained his DNA from a discarded napkin.

Posted: Feb. 18, 2019 9:43 AM
Updated: Feb. 18, 2019 11:06 AM

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A businessman has been charged with fatally stabbing a Minneapolis woman in 1993 after investigators ran DNA evidence from the murder scene through a genealogy website and obtained his DNA from a discarded napkin.

Jerry Westrom, 52, was charged with second-degree murder in the death of 35-year-old Jeanne Ann "Jeanie" Childs. He posted $500,000 bail and was released from jail following a court hearing where his wife, children and 20 other supporters looked on from the gallery.

Several members of Childs' family were also at the hearing in Hennepin County District Court.

Westrom's lawyer, Steven Meshbesher, told the court that Westrom had lived in Minnesota his entire life and wasn't a flight risk.

"What we've got is a very unsolved case and it was charged, in my opinion, prematurely," Meshbesher said.

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

The bathroom was flooding because the shower had been left turned on. Finger, palm and foot prints were discovered at the scene, investigators said.

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

The samples were later run through an online genealogy website, which turned up Westrom as a possible suspect.

Investigators then used the internet to determine where Westrom would be in public places and then secretly trailed him to his daughter's hockey game in Wisconsin in January. That's where investigators confiscated a napkin he had used and tossed in the trash.

Westrom's next court date was set for March 13.

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