Judge finds suspect guilty in 1991 murder of young Minneapolis woman

A 58-year-old man from South St. Paul, who was 29 at the time, has been found guilty of stabbing a 20-year-old woman
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The suspect in a 1991 fatal stabbing case has been found guilty following a court trial, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office announced Thursday. 

Nearly 29 years to the day it happened, 58-year-old Donald Jenkins Jr., of South St. Paul, has been found guilty of second-degree murder for fatally stabbing 20-year-old Belinda Thompson in south Minneapolis on Dec. 19, 1991. Jenkins was 29 at the time. 

Donald Jenkins Jr. in his Hennepin County mugshot from 2018

Donald Jenkins Jr. in his Hennepin County mugshot from 2018

The case was one of dozens of homicides logged in 1991 — at the height of the crack cocaine epidemic in Minneapolis — and "received only scant local media coverage" at the time, the Star Tribune reported in 2018

Jenkins was first arrested and charged in the case two years ago when the Minneapolis Police Department and FBI reopened the case.

After his arrest in 2018, Jenkins told investigators he was searching Thompson's apartment for drugs, and thought no one was home. He said he "wasn’t supposed to visit Thompson’s apartment when her boyfriend wasn’t there," according to the Star Tribune, which cites the criminal complaint. Investigators had also found he had been friends with the boyfriend. 

While inside, he grabbed a knife, knocked Thompson to the floor and stabbed her 11 times, killing her. He told authorities he stabbed her out of fear her boyfriend would kill him for visiting while he wasn't there. 

When officers arrived to the scene at the 2800 block of Grand Avenue S., they found a bloody knife tucked between couch cushions and Thompson's body on the floor of her bedroom. 

Decades later, in 2008, homicide detectives submitted a bloody washcloth found at the scene, along with other physical evidence, to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for DNA testing. In 2010, DNA was collected from Jenkins. 

They couldn't exclude Jenkins' DNA from the mixture of DNA on the washcloth, but could exclude over 99 percent of the world's population, according to a Hennepin County press release. 

When they interviewed him in 2010, he told investigators: "Let's find out!" if his DNA could implicate him, and said he once cut himself while working on a vehicle at Thompson's apartment. 

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Then, after being interviewed and arrested in 2018, Jenkins confessed after initially denying involvement. 

"My DNA is there; I did it,” he said. 

In a separate case in 1993, Jenkins was found guilty of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Hennepin County for repeatedly raping a 9-year-old girl relative. He was sentenced to more than five years of prison and was later convicted of failure to register as a predatory offender. 

He waived his right to a jury trial and instead had a court trial, which took place from Nov. 6 to Nov. 24. The following week, Judge Hillary Caligiuri found Jenkins guilty of intentional second-degree murder, according to a Hennepin County press release. 

He will be sentenced Dec. 14. 

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