Cold case of murder solved after 35 years using DNA evidence from a cigarette butt

Edited By: Bharat Sharma WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Updated: Mar 23, 2020, 07:13 PM(IST)

A member of the forensic section of the French gendarmerie (Cellule d'Identification Criminelle, CIC) collects a cigarette butt fo analysis in Beauvais on November 21, 2013 Photograph:( AFP )

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DNA evidence from a discarded cigarette solved the cold case

Police in the US state of Florida recently arrested a man for murder 35 years after the crime was committed. 

Interestingly, DNA evidence from a discarded cigarette solved the cold case, the BBC reported.

Earlier this week, 57-year-old Daniel Wells was arrested in Pensacola for murdering Tonya McKinley.

McKinley was sexually assaulted and strangled on New Year’s Day in 1985. She has a son. The case remained unsolved for over three decades. According to the local police, DNA from a database linked Wells to the murder.

Also read: Man sentenced to death for murder of 19 people at a caring home for disabled

"I didn't really think this would happen in my lifetime, not after 35 years." the victim’s sister, Renee, told NBC News. 

The statement released by Pensacola police clearly states that they had interrogated her friends and family, while also talking to people at the local restaurant where the 23-year-old was seen.

The police were able to trace Wells by using open-source genealogy databases and combining them with DNA evidence which was found near the victim’s body 35 years ago.

"Despite having a good bit of physical evidence and dozens of interviews, over time, the trail went cold," police said. "In the meantime, a baby boy grew up without a mother, parents buried their daughter without knowing justice, and a killer was walking around free", the police statement added.

Daniel Wells | Source: CTV news

Based on the information derived from this process, the police reached the relatives and cousins of Wells. After a link was established, the police charted out a family tree and finally zeroed in on Wells.

Media reports suggest that the police tracked him for a long time, and collected DNA evidence from a cigarette butt that he had thrown out of the car.

After the link was established and verified by the police, Wells was charged for committing first-degree murder and first-degree sexual battery. He is currently being held at Escambia Country Jail.

McKinley’s 35-year-old son, Timothy Davidson expressed happiness at the discovery.

“It’s still kind of unbelievable, like I’m dreaming,” he told The Daily Beast.

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