More than 15 years after a young couple was killed in their Minneapolis home, a grand jury returned two murder indictments in the case Wednesday.
The Star Tribune reports the deaths of 18-year-old Carrie Richter and her boyfriend Dustin Baity, 20 (above), spread shock and fear through their northeast Minneapolis neighborhood after they were found strangled and stabbed on Christmas Eve of 1998.
Now investigators have used DNA evidence to trace their deaths to Jason Richard Preston, 35, who is serving a prison sentence in California.
MPR News reports Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman credited the break in the cold case to determined police work and improved technology.
According to KSTP, DNA from a drop of blood at the crime scene is what led investigators to Preston. The station posted video of the news conference called by Freeman.
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As MPR reports, Freeman singled out the police department's Chris Karakostas for particular recognition. Karakostas responded to the crime scene at the home of Richter and Baity in 1998 as a patrol officer. Years later, after he'd been promoted to homicide investigator, the killings were assigned to him as a cold case.
Karakostas says he repeatedly sent DNA samples to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension over the years in hopes of finding a match.
Preston's prison sentence on a home invasion conviction will keep him locked up until 2038, authorities say. Only then will he face the murder charges in Minnesota.
A breakthrough in a 16-year-old murder case is unusual but cracking cold cases has become more common, particularly with advancements in DNA testing.
In May DNA evidence led to the arrest of a Cold Spring man in connection with the 2009 death of a girl in Chicago.
Another cold case closed this year involved a 17-year-old who was fatally shot near North High School in Minneapolis seven years ago. A 24-year-old confessed to that crime in March.