By Caroline Lowe, WCCO-TV
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s been almost 28 years since 24-year-old Suzanne Sayles was strangled and raped in her Minneapolis apartment. Minneapolis police agreed to take a fresh look at the case after her friends contacted WCCO-TV.
One of the department’s most respected investigators, Sgt. Mike Keefe, has been assigned the case. Keefe recently submitted six samples of DNA from men who knew Suzanne.
Suzanne grew up in Austin, Minn. and was working as a secretary at the University of Minnesota Dental School when she was murdered in May 1979.
The men agreed voluntarily to give the DNA samples to Keefe in the past couple of weeks. Their DNA will be compared with DNA preserved at the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension that was obtained at the crime scene.
BCA officials estimate it will take at least a month to determine if there is a DNA match. Anyone with information on Suzanne’s killing is asked to call Keefe at (612) 673-3653.
DNA Samples Tested For 1979 Murder Case
It’s been almost 28 years since 24-year-old Suzanne Sayles was strangled and sexually assaulted in her Minneapolis apartment. At the time, she was a secretary at the University of Minnesota Dental School.
The Minneapolis Police Department Homicide Commander agreed to reopen the case after Suzanne’s friends contacted WCCO-TV. Lt. David Hayhoe assigned one of his most respected detectives to take on the cold case.
For the past month, Sgt. Mike Keefe has meticulously sifted through crime scene evidence and interviewed Suzanne’s parents, friends and the retired investigators who were originally assigned to the case back in May 1979.
Six men who knew the victim agreed to give Sgt. Keefe samples of their DNA. Those samples are now in the state BCA crime lab where DNA obtained from the crime scene has been preserved. Minneapolis Homicide Lt. Hayhoe calls those men “persons of interest.”
“We’re very optimistic that hopefully we can have a good outcome on this and be able to charge someone with this crime,” he said.
The DNA from the crime scene included blood evidence police believed belonged to the killer who was injured when Suzanne fought back during a struggle.
Suzanne grew up in Austin, Minn. Her parents, Marilyn and Robert Sayles, still live in the same house. Suzanne’s pretty pink bedroom looks the same as when she lived there, her gold Mustang is parked in her parent’s garage. Suzanne was just out of junior college when she left her hometown and moved to the Twin Cities. She fell in love with a dentist and was making plans to move to Fargo to be with him.
Suzanne last talked with her mother on the phone about an hour before she was murdered. When she didn’t show up for work for the next day, Suzanne’s best friend Chelle and a co-worker went to her apartment to check on her. When they opened the unlocked door, they made the horrific discovery.
“Suzanne was laying on the floor. I backed out and started screaming and crying,” Chelle remembered. “And it’s changed my life forever.”
Suzanne’s parents and friends believe Suzanne most likely knew her killer because she was very security conscious and had been concerned about some recent hang-up calls.
“She always kept her door locked,” said Marilyn Sayles.
Suzanne’s parents are grateful MPD investigators are taking a fresh look at her murder and actively hunting for her killer.
“I always said I hope before I die that it would be solved,” said Marilyn, who buried her daughter the day before her birthday.
“It’s been so long now, I think about it every day,” said Robert Sayles.
BCA officials estimate it will take at least a month to know if there is a match between the killer’s DNA and the DNA from the six men whose samples were submitted last week for tests. In the meantime, Suzanne’s parents plan to keep her bedroom just like it was when she grew up.
“I can’t part with it. It is part of me,” said Marilyn.