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Isanti businessman indicted for 1st-degree murder in 1993 cold case

Jerry Westrom was arrested in February 2019 for the killing of Jeanie Childs.
Jerry Westrom

A suspect from a 1993 homicide case is scheduled to make his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon on a 1st-degree murder indictment, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman has announced.

Jerry Westrom, 54, of Isanti, was indicted by a Hennepin County Grand Jury June 25, for first-degree premeditated murder in the stabbing death of 35-year-old Jeanie Childs on June 13, 1993.

A warrant was issued for his arrest immediately following the indictment, as Westrom had posted $500,000 bail on February 15, 2019, the day after he was originally charged with 2nd-degree murder. He turned himself in Monday.

According to the criminal complaint, on June 13, 1993, property management for an apartment building on the 3100 block of Pillsbury Avenue South were alerted by a tenant that water was coming into her apartment.

The source of the water leak was determined to be an adjacent apartment where Childs often stayed. Upon entry into the apartment, water was found to be overflowing from an unoccupied, running shower. Water and blood were present throughout the bathroom and connected bedroom, and Childs’ body was found on the bedroom floor.

Jeanie Childs

Jeanie Ann Childs

Authorities were called and an investigation began. They found the apartment belonged to someone Childs had been dating who was out of the area at the time of the incident, and that she used the apartment for prostitution services. 

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office determined she died from multiple sharp force injuries. Items from the apartment were collected and eventually tested for the presence of DNA. An unknown DNA profile was found to be on several of the items tested.

In 2018, police enlisted the services of a genealogist who supplied Westrom’s name as an individual who shared familial traits to the unknown profile that was developed at the crime scene.

In 2019, police started to follow Westrom and, at a hockey game, watched him use a napkin to wipe his mouth and then toss it in the trash. Police retrieved the napkin and were able to obtain a DNA sample from it, which linked to DNA profiles at the crime scene.

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In addition, Westrom’s footprints were matched to several bloody footprints found at the scene.

They also learned that Westrom, who had grown up in Elbow Lake in west-central Minnesota, had lived in the Twin Cities metro from April 9, 1991 to Dec. 31, 1993.

He was charged with second-degree murder in February 2019. 

According to the probable cause statement, Mr. Westrom told authorities he didn't know Ms. Childs, had not been in the apartment, and had not had sex with any women in Minneapolis in 1993. His lawyer, Steven Meshbesher, said at the time the arrest was premature and that Westrom would plead not guilty, MPR News reported

“We all hope Jeanne’s family can finally find peace as a result of this tenacious effort by officers and agents,” Jill Sanborn, the special agent in charge of the Minneapolis division of the F.B.I., said at the time in a statement.

A farmer and businessman

Westrom's blog said that he studied agricultural business and economics at the University of Minnesota, graduating in 1989, before later going on to own an organic corn farm in Isanti.

The Isanti County News reports that he also previously owned several businesses in the Cambridge area, including the local Sears, the former Westrom's Corner gas station, and the former Sinclair gas station.

The Star Tribune described him as a "hockey dad" to his two, now grown children, and was involved in local youth athletics.

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