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Arrest made in connection to 1986 Chisholm homicide case that went cold

The suspect, now 52, is accused of killing a woman 34 years ago.
Nancy Dougherty

Authorities believe they have solved a cold case that dates back to a 1986 homicide in northern Minnesota. 

Nancy Daugherty, who was 38 years old, was found dead inside her Chisholm home by officers who were conducting a welfare check on July 16, 1986. She had been beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled. The case went cold until a recent discovery led to the arrest of a 52-year-old Chisholm man on Wednesday. 

The suspect, who has not yet been formally charged, was taken into custody and booked into the St. Louis County Jail for probable cause second-degree murder, according to a joint release from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and the Chisholm Police Department. 

The day of Daugherty's killing, witnesses reported hearing a woman screaming in the early morning hours. Evidence indicated that a struggle had taken place inside and outside her home. DNA was recovered from the scene but did not match anyone in the criminal DNA database, the release said. 

A break in the case came in early 2020 when a sample of DNA was sent to a company that specializes in genealogy to help generate leads in criminal cases. Through the company, Parabon, a decades-old DNA sample provided enough information to identify the Chisholm man as a suspect. 

Investigators began surveilling him last week, at one point being able to collect a DNA sample without him knowing. It's unclear how the DNA sample was obtained, but it proved to be a match to the bodily fluids found on the victim and at the scene.

Authorities then obtained a search warrant and collected a DNA directly from the suspect, which confirmed the match. The 52-year-old is expected to be formally charged in the days ahead. 

“This case illustrates why no case is ever cold for us,” BCA Superintendent Drew Evans said. “Every time we hit a dead end, investigators and scientists go back to the drawing board. Solving this case is proof of the value of tenacious work – even when it’s over a span of decades.”

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