Top 10 Murder Mysteries Where Forensics Actually Helped Solve Crimes
Forensics is an integral part of the law as they analyze evidence to bring out the truth in front of the world. A suspect may or may not confess about his crimes in court, Forensics always show the bitter truth of the case.
Police receive distinct cases per day. Some of those are Open and shut cases while some take a turn into mysteries. Forensic always come in handy to the court as well as the police department to help catch the criminal.
Centuries have passed since Forensic science was used for the first time to solve the case and since then, advancements in this field has been enormous making it easy to catch up with the sharp-minded serial killers and murderers.
Take a look at our article below of our Top 10 murder mysteries and you will know how Forensic experts and techniques helped in providing justice to the victim.
Top 10 murder mysteries where Forensics helped solve the crime
Murder of Sara Lynn Wineski (2005)
Sara Lynn, a 49-year-old woman was sexually assaulted and strangled by a belt under the deck of a house in Petersburg, Florida on 25th May 2005. On the night of the crime, a local resident heard some screams, and later the following day, her body was found.
Sara Lynn was a homeless person, even so, police and her family members fought hard to get her the justice she deserved. Raymond Samuels who was seen roaming around the night of the crime was suspected of killing her.
Samuels being a transient remained in the area for two months around that murder and since he had no criminal record in Florida, the police couldn’t do anything and, it turned out to be another of murder mysteries as the patience game started.
Without any sufficient evidence and witnesses, the criminal was out of reach of law and due to lack of technology, forensics weren’t of much help.
A couple of years later when police were given a hit with the DNA evidence that matched with the DNA of Samuel, he was already in jail in Ohio serving for robbing and attacking charges.
3 years later when he was extradited from Ohio to Florida, further DNA testing confirmed his presence at the scene of the crime and on the belt used for strangulation. Without any real witnesses, the police were left with forensic evidence alone and the court charged him with first-degree murder.
Jane Britton’s murder (1969)
On 7th January 1969, Jane Britton had general exams after which they would work on dissertations. Jane didn’t attend the exam which was strange for her classmates as she was dedicated to her studies and would never miss an exam.
Her boyfriend Jim Humphries called her that morning repeatedly but she never responded. He then went to look out for her at her apartment. The door was unlocked and when he entered the room, he saw her lying on the bed with face down and nightgown over her head. When he asked her neighbor to have a closer look she found that Jane was dead and blood was all over her head.
The police started investigating and collected the evidence from the room. The medical examiner ruled her dead by homicide with blunt force trauma. It was stated that she was raped and then killed. A fingerprint was found in the room but it matched no one who might have gone to the room.
Years went by and the case remained unsolved and became another of some murder mysteries as everyone had lost hope of getting justice for Jane until Becky Copper arrived at Harvard as a sophomore in 2009. She heard about her death and vowed to solve Jane’s cold case. She went on for 9 long years to get justice.
In her investigation, she suspected almost every person who was close to her. The police case was opened and it was found that semen evidence was present in her underwear and then it was matched with everyone but the case gained no more progress.
The mounting pressure to solve the case finally led the police to look into the suspects who might be a match for the DNA. This led police to a match named Michael Sumpter who was a serial rapist and killer and spent his life in and out of jail. And so the case was solved 2 months before its 50th anniversary in November 2018.
Krystal Beslanowitch Murder case (1995)
On 14th December 1995, Krystal Beslanowitch went out of her home to get some food at a local area near Salt Lake City, Utah. At night, her boyfriend started to worry as she didn’t return back home and started looking for her.
About 45 miles away from the house, a rancher found a nude and dead body of a woman near the river Provo. Police found the tattoo’s on her body, one written as John Doe. Police reached out to the media so that some of her family members will contact them. Her boyfriend (Chris) found her on news and contacted the police.
Her skull was smashed with a rock kept beside her body. The police took it as a murder weapon and blood was spilled all across the body. Another case where a lack of advancement in technology turned the case into one of the murder mysteries.
By 2008, the DNA of the blood matched with the blood of the victim, and a partial DNA profile was found of the suspect. It didn’t match with any of the suspects and the case was back at scratch.
In 2013, the development of the M-VAC system (DNA extraction tool) helped in the complete extraction of DNA samples. The complete DNA profile was then generated and run through the CODIS system which matched with the DNA profile of Joseph Michael Simpson.
Joseph was a bus driver and was never on the suspect list. The development of new technology helped to solve it.
Phoenix Canal Killings (1990s)
We may never have heard of the use of genealogy in forensic evidence in solving criminal cases. Well, there was one case where Colleen Fitzpatrick (Founder of Identifinders International) helped solve one 17-year old murder mystery.
In 1991, Angela Brosso took a ride on her bike outside along the Arizona Canal and was found a couple of days later in a vacant lot. Six months later another girl Melanie Bernas disappeared and was later found floating in the canal.
The police were motivated to solve this case but due to lack of sufficient evidence and a large number of suspects, they couldn’t really solve it as both cases turned into murder mysteries.
In 2014, Colleen was in ISHI and told the police about Forensic Genealogy and how it can be used to solve cases. To solve the case police sent over the evidence to them to run a Y-profile of the unknown person against a large number of Y-profiles.
The first test available was the Y-DNA test which belongs to the males following the line of their forefathers as of their family name. There were hundreds of thousands of tests taken at that time and posted online as it was public data. All the people were sons of famous persons or belonging to a similar geographical area.
The Identifinders International applied the unknown Y-profile and ran in on the software to match it with the thousands of profiles available. The test remained successful as it shortlisted the number of suspects to 3 of the name Miller.
The police managed to get the DNA sample from the person and matched it with the sample found at a crime scene and it successfully matched. The accused has been arrested for 5 years and is currently on his murder trial.
Denise Sharon Murder case (1991)
Denise Sharon Murder Case is one of those murder mysteries in which Forensics was used but the absence of DNA or any physical evidence led the authorities to use new investigative tools such as Photo enhancing.
Denise Sharon was a 27-year old woman who was found half nude and dead in woods in Birmingham Township. The police started an investigation and found that the body was dumped in the woods after the murder.
The prime accused in the case was Theodore Dill Donahue, the boyfriend of Sharon and a pizza deliveryman. In his statement to the police, he said that “He last saw Denise in the streets where they bought and used crack and then were robbed at knifepoint. Denise ran from the streets for help and never returned. He last saw her on 18th Oct 1991.”
Sharon’s sister gave a different statement and revealed that they both were fighting outside a bar on 19th Oct 1991. The phone call records also suggested that they both met outside a bar on 19th Oct.
Interviewing many people known to Donahue, they all claimed that he is a freak, yet without any conclusive evidence, he was not arrested still remained a suspect. This case turned into another one of the murder mysteries and was not solved until 2019.
The case was reopened in 2015 by the Criminal investigation assessment unit of State Police and was joined by District Attorney’s Office in 2018. After some time, with the help of State Trooper Andrew Martin who gained free access to Temple University’s photography department.
On the dead body, a yellow-sock was found whose other part was found in Donahue’s house. Photograph enhancement found that both the sock matched and hence in 2019 Donahue was arrested.
He was charged with murder, abuse of a corpse, tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, and false reports to police. Since his email handle was “TedBundy1967″ which is somewhat related to the serial killer named Ted Bundy, he was denied bail too.
Karen Klass Murder case (1976)
This is the rarest of the murder mysteries that took more than 4 decades to identify the criminal who raped and killed Karen in her own house. Karen was the ex-wife of the famous singer of that time ‘Bill Medley’ and had remarried.
Karen dropped off her younger son at school and returned home where she was raped and strangulated. She was discovered by her friends who were going to her home and saw an unknown person leave.
By the time, she was discovered, she was unconscious. Her friends called the police and she was immediately referred to a hospital where she went into Coma and succumbed to her injuries.
The police collected physical and biological evidence from the crime scene but due to lack of advanced technology, the accused wasn’t traced.
By 2016, a new technique was developed named “Familial DNA” which was criticized by many people as it may link the DNA of the accused to his family. The technique was criticized because many believed that this technique would subject thousands of innocent people to lifelong surveillance if they belong to the family of the perpetrator.
However, using this technique, a close match of the relative of the criminal was found and the crime was then linked to Kenneth Troyer who had been booked for many criminal cases in California.
Troyer was however shot dead by the police in a firing in 1982. At the time of the incident, Treyor had visited Karen’s area and thus was linked to the case. However, the motive behind the crime was not established.
Cornell Story Murders (1990)
Another one of the horrifying murder mysteries in which the criminal surpassed all his limits. On the night of 10th May 1990, Cornell had gone to her boyfriend’s apartment to watch a live talk show with him and fell asleep on his couch. She used to work in a hospital and so woke up early to go to her home for getting fresh for her shift.
In the apartment, her daughter Robin had slept with her mother’s roommate named “Story“. When she reached home, the front door was closed and so she decided to go through the rear door which was wide open. As she entered the kitchen, she saw her both daughter’s photos arranged ironically which was weird.
As she got close to her daughter’s room, she saw Robin and Story lying on the bed partially naked. She immediately called 911 but to no avail as she was already dead and rigor mortis had already started.
Police investigated the crime scene and found that the accused entered the room and then killed them by suffocating them with pillows. Then both the girls were sexually assaulted after their death. He also took a shower and had left the crime scene with many clues that may link him with the crime.
He had taken a few things from the home such as credit cards, Driver’s license, Wristwatch, etc., and left some socks, keys of car and home, etc.
Since at that time the DNA database wasn’t available and thus, he couldn’t be traced but the forensics revealed that the criminal was a white male of O Blood group yet they were hopeful that one day the DNA sample of the perpetrator might show up and match.
In 2010, it happened, the criminal got himself into trouble and arrested him in the air-rifle shooting of his son. He was asked to submit a DNA sample.
Within a month, the Florida law enforcement agency told the local police that the DNA of Joseph Zieler matches with the evidence of the double murder that happened in 1990.
Shirley Duguay case (1994)
In 1994, Shirley Duguay a 32-year old woman went missing. Her common-law husband Douglas Beamish filed a missing report and accused her of abandoning Douglas and their children while he was also one of the suspects.
This case turned into one of the murder mysteries very soon as the body of the victim was not found for almost 1 year. Her dead body was found in a shallow grave.
The police investigated and collected evidence found at the crime scene. Forensics established that the gave was the secondary crime scene. She was killed and then dragged to that area to bury.
Among the pieces of evidence, a leather jacket was found covered with her blood and dozens of white hairs. While investigating, it was found that Duguay had a cat named Snowball.
The team decided to investigate that hair and match with the cat but surprisingly, animal hairs hadn’t been used for investigation, and thus, analysis became tough.
The police came to know about a laboratory that didn’t specialize in Forensics rather they used to work in the study of genetic diseases, detectives and scientists were able to develop a method to test the feline DNA.
In the method, they tested the Hair DNA with 20 other cats to confirm it didn’t belong to any cat’s bloodline. After successfully testing, it was found that the hair did match the DNA of Snowball.
Douglas Beamish was then charged with second-degree murder and is currently serving his sentence.
Patricia Beard murder case (1981)
Patricia Beard was a 32-year young lady who was living in Denver. She was a mentally disabled person who was living alone. Her family and friends used to regularly check up on her.
When they didn’t hear from them for a very few days, they suspected that something wasn’t right. As it turned, their suspicion turned out to be true as she was discovered dead lying on her bed partially naked in her pink robe.
The police started their investigation and collected several pieces of evidence from the crime scene. According to the investigators, the accused entered through the window by climbing through the exterior pipe.
The autopsy report revealed that she was sexually assaulted, and then strangulated. There were hemorrhages on her neck, fractured bone, and lacerations on her left breast.
Though sperm samples were collected from the body of the victim, and a DNA profile was created, it didn’t match any of the suspects. Since there were a lot of evidences present at the crime scene, none of them mattered much as they couldn’t lead them to arrest any of the suspects.
The case slowly turned into another one of the murder mysteries which wasn’t solved for nearly 3 decades until, in 2011, a detective with the Denver police cold-case unit discovered a post-mortem kit affiliated with the case. The kit survived while none of the other evidence survived.
He took it to a forensic scientist and a DNA sample was formed from the sperm found from the vaginal swabs. The DNA also didn’t lead them to a conclusion.
However, in 2013 they got a hit when the DNA sample matched with the DNA of Bencomo-Hinojos. He wasn’t hard to find as he was living in a prison in Pennsylvania.
After the match the police investigated and he denied all the charges even though he was told that he was linked successfully. He denied ever having met or having sex with Patricia Beard. He even told them that he doesn’t know the meaning of ‘Oral Sex‘ or ‘murderer’.
The police also investigated his wife where she revealed that he was a physically abusive man and even sometimes used to come up with some things at home which he could only have stolen.
This led him to successful linking to the crime scene and now faces extradition based on suspicion of First-degree murder.
Denver police solved the Beard case as their 100th cold case and became the first to solve 100 cold cases.
Ranya Rison Murder Case (1993)
Ranya Rison was a 16-year teenager of Indiana who died in a lover’s quarrel. She used to work in animal husbandry where she used to clean kennels and walked dogs. She also had 2 other jobs.
On 26th March 1993, Ranya Rison was working in the animal husbandry till 6:00 pm. After her shift, she was going on a date with Matt but when he arrived at the hospital to pick her up, he couldn’t find her.
She checked up at her home where his father told him that she hadn’t got home yet. Her parents got worried when she didn’t reach at 10:30 and tried filing a missing complaint. Police couldn’t help them as a missing report can only be filed after 24 hours.
They looked for her in the town along with the police the next day when some witnesses confirmed that she was seen outside the animal husbandry quarreling with two boys. Police investigated Matt and found that he wasn’t the one among those two.
Rayna’s car was found the next evening with her cell phone and a ring in it about 7 miles from town. After investigation, they came to know that the ring belonged to Jason Tibbs one of the ex-boyfriends of Rayna.
Police investigated Tibbs where he told them that he hadn’t seen her and was with his friends playing a hide and seek game where his friends said that, though he was playing he was never found.
After a month on 26th April, she was found submerged in a pond by a girl who was fishing with her father. The autopsy concluded homicide by asphyxiation. The police also investigated Ray McCarthy (Rayna’s sister’s husband) who molested Raya at the age of 11 and impregnated her.
He said that he found her outside the husbandry on the day she disappeared and asked her about her sister and never saw her again.
The case took many turns and one suspect led to another when it entered in the list of another one of murder mysteries. Police had arrested Ray in 1998 based on the blood sample found at his house yet due to insufficient evidence, charges were dropped.
In 2008, police got a hit when a boy named Ricky Hammons confessed that he witnessed Jason Tibbs and his fellow Eric Freeman pulling out the body of Rayna from a car near the pole barn to dump her in the pond.
Since Ricky was 14-year old at that time and was smoking pot in that barn, he never told the police because he didn’t want to get in trouble and hadn’t realized that the body was of Rayna till he saw her on news in 2008.
Police interrogated Eric and offered him immunity if he confesses. Eric confessed that Jason strangulated her because he was in love with her and had said, “If he can’t have her, nobody can.”
Jason was arrested in 2013 based on the statements and pieces of evidence linking him to the crime. In December 2014, Jason was sentenced to prison for 40 years. He requested a new trial in 2016 but his request was rejected with a majority of 4:1.
All these murder mysteries would likely have been unsolved but the Forensics technology and advancements made it possible for the investigators to find out a way to link the evidence with the victim and crime scene. Forensics, therefore, is regarded as the base to solve the crimes and thus must be given preference to reach the crime scenes at first which is not the case scenario everywhere.
All criminals need to be punished whether they committed a crime today or 50 years ago. A victim has a right to get justice.