SEATTLE — A man was arrested Monday in the cold-case homicide of a 19-year-old Marysville woman found dead in her bedroom more than 20 years ago, police said.
Advancements in forensic technology allowed investigators to match the suspect’s DNA to the ax used to kill Jennifer Brinkman, who was found when her father and his then-girlfriend returned from a vacation in 1998.
Although police retrieved the weapon and collected a DNA sample after the homicide, rudimentary technology prevented investigators from finding a match until recently, Detective Sgt. James Maples, one of several detectives assigned to the case, said during a Tuesday news conference.
Families who have lost loved ones to violence experience frustration and pain no matter how quickly police resolve their cases, but that anguish is heightened when cases run cold, Chief of Police Erik Scairpon said.
“Today we rest easy,” he said. The suspect was booked into the Snohomish County Jail, where he awaits formal charges.
The team assigned to investigate the homicide has not let Brinkman’s memory or case falter, Scairpon said. Regional resources and several area law-enforcement agencies assisted the short-staffed department.
Brinkman was a social person who often used phone chat lines and dating sites. She met the suspect on a phone chat line, Maples said.
The suspect initially denied knowing Brinkman, said Detective Wade Rediger, one of the lead investigators. But police found in 1998 that he’d written Brinkman a letter, indicating they had spoken before her death, officials said.
Law enforcement officials recently sent DNA from the crime scene to Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia company that provides DNA forensic services to law-enforcement agencies to help generate leads. The company sent back three possible suspects about two months ago, said Marysville police spokesperson TJ San Miguel.
Officials obtained through a search warrant a DNA sample from the man who was ultimately arrested Monday. The results then were sent to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, which matched him to DNA found on the ax, Rediger said.
The letter, DNA match and other factors helped investigators establish probable cause for the man’s arrest, San Miguel said.
Brinkman’s mother was overwhelmed when told of the arrest, said Cmdr. Robb Lamoureux, the initial detective assigned to the case. Her father died in 2013.
Brinkman’s family, the Marysville community and the police officials who investigated her death now can begin to feel some form of closure, Lamoureux said.