DNA Profiling Helps Solve 22-year-old Murder Case

Public-private partnership provides the technology to definitively close the case

by / October 4, 2004
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) and ChoicePoint provided expertise which led to an arrest last month in an unsolved murder case spanning 22 years. DNA technology assistance was provided by ChoicePoint's Bode Technology Group.

Fifteen-year-old Linda Strait was abducted as she walked from her home to a nearby grocery store in Spokane, Wash., on Sept. 26, 1982. The next day, Linda's body was discovered floating in the Spokane River. The young teen had been raped and strangled.

Over the next two decades, investigators grew frustrated by their inability to solve the case. Although they had a suspect and DNA evidence, they lacked the scientific technology that could prove unequivocally that the suspect had committed the crime.

The suspect, Arbie Dean Williams, had been in prison since 1983 after he pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping, sexual assault and attempted murder in a case that involved two eight-year-old girls, crimes that occurred just months after Linda Strait's body was discovered.

Modern technologies were used in April 2003 to analyze the DNA evidence in the Linda Strait case. The preliminary results pointed to Williams, but didn't yield enough genetic "markers" to conclusively show his involvement in the murder.

In January 2004, the Spokane County Sheriff's Office appealed to NCMEC's Cold Case Review Unit, a division that specializes in resolving long-term missing-child cases. NCMEC contacted ChoicePoint. Through ChoicePoint's corporate-giving foundation -- ChoicePoint Cares -- an in-kind grant was donated to conduct the additional testing at The Bode Technology Group, a research and analysis firm specializing in all aspects of DNA identification.

In March 2003, Bode reported that the new testing yielded a match between the evidence and a mitochondrial DNA profile obtained from a blood sample of Arbie Dean Williams. The findings led to Williams, now 61 years old, being formally charged on Aug. 18, 2004, with the murder of Linda Strait.

"It is extremely rewarding when we can use the positive power of our technology to help solve old crimes, or cold cases, in Washington State and across the nation," said Lauren Waits, vice president of ChoicePoint Cares.
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