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Cold Case: Kristin O’Connell

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Kristin O'Connell

Kristin O’Connell was a college student from Burnsville, Minn. In 1985, she was visiting a friend in Ovid, N.Y. She went missing after taking a walk alone on Aug. 14. Two days later, searchers found her body in a cornfield. Her throat had been slashed. (credit: New York State Police)

By Caroline Lowe, WCCO-TV

(WCCO) — Kristin O’Connell was a college student when she was brutally murdered during a visit to upstate New York in the summer of 1985. She was studying hotel and restaurant management and hoped to someday work in Hawaii.

O’Connell was barefoot and alone late at night when she left a party at a trailer in Ovid. She wanted to take a walk. She never returned.

Two days later, searchers found her body in a cornfield. Her throat had been slashed.

Furthermore, two people who were seen walking behind Kristin have never been found.

From the start, it’s been a tough murder to solve. It rained the night of her murder, which washed away a lot of evidence at the crime scene.

Now, a famed Dutch husband-and-wife forensic team with a track record of solving cases involving touch DNA would be willing to test Kristin’s clothes at their lab in Amsterdam.

Richard and Selma Eikelenboom are willing to take the case, there are still some hurdles getting approval from New York State Health Department. The cold case detectives hope health department officials will grant a one–time exemption in this case to allow the testing by the internationally recognized forensic team, even though they are not certified in New York.

Minnesota’s U.S. senator Amy Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, is helping on the Kristin O’Connell case. She has personally called N.Y. officials to urge them to give the green light for the DNA testing in Amsterdam.

A $10,000 reward is being offered by the Seneca County District Attorney’s Office for information.

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Famed DNA Team May Help Solve MN Woman’s Murder

Phyllis O’Connell has been writing the same murder mystery for nearly 25 years.

“It sounds like a dime store novel,” said the Burnsville woman.

But her book is not fiction. It’s a true crime story about her frustrating journey to find justice for her daughter Kristin.

Kristin O’Connell was a college student when she was brutally murdered during a visit to upstate New York in the summer of 1985. She was studying hotel and restaurant management and hoped to someday work in Hawaii.

“They took away my life, my grandchildren, my dreams,” said Phyllis O’Connell.

She writes in an office just across the hall from her daughter’s bedroom. That room looks the same as did when she went to New York to visit a friend she met on a spring break in Florida.

“It just helps me to be close to her, to remember,” said the grieving mother. “I really didn’t want her to go.”

Kristin O’Connell was barefoot and alone late at night when she left a party at a trailer in Ovid. She wanted to take a walk. She never returned. Two days later, searchers found her body in a cornfield. Her throat had been slashed.

Two people who were seen walking behind Kristin have never been found.

“Somebody came out of nowhere and killed our daughter,” said Phyllis O’Connell.

Kristin O’Connell’s younger brother Kyle was just 15 and home alone in 1985 when New York Police called with news that his sister was missing.

“I just lost the air out of me. Cause she wasn’t the type of person to go missing,” he said.

Nearly 25 years later, Kyle O’Connell can’t forget his mom’s reaction when she got home and got the news.

“Dad had told her and the shrill scream that she let out … She knew, she knew that she was gone,” said the 39-year-old, now an only child.

Over the year, Phyllis O’Connell has kept in close contact with New York state investigators assigned to the case. She has even flown out there a couple of times to make appeals for help to both the media and police.

From the start, it’s been a tough murder to solve. It rained the night of her murder, which washed away a lot of evidence at the crime scene.

Last Christmas Eve, a New York investigator called with some good news. Jeff Arnold, who is assigned to the New York State Police cold case unit, told Phyllis O’Connell a famed Dutch husband-and-wife forensic team with a track record of solving cases involving touch DNA would be willing to test Kristin’s clothes at their lab in Amsterdam.

Richard and Selma Eikelenboom were recently included in a CBS 48 Hours Mystery report on their role in testing evidence that led prosecutor’s to dismiss charges against a man charged with murder in Colorado.

While the Eikelenbooms are willing to take the case, there are still some hurdles getting approval from New York State Health Department. The cold case detectives hope health department officials will grant a one–time exemption in this case to allow the testing by the internationally recognized forensic team, even though they are not certified in New York.

Minnesota’s U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, is helping on the Kristin O’Connell case. She has personally called N.Y. officials to urge them to give the green light for the DNA testing in Amsterdam.

Phyllis O’Connell is frustrated with delays getting approval, but she is also grateful for the support of Klobuchar and detectives like Arnold, who has spent many working hours on the investigation.

As the Burnsville mother continues to wait for answers, she keeps writing her book about the murder and hoping she will someday reach the final chapter.

“This has been my goal: to get it solved before I die,” she said.

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