MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — An inmate charged last year with the 1987 murder of an 81-year old woman pleaded guilty Friday morning.
Michael Anthony Withers was charged with two counts of second-degree murder in connection with the death of Lillian Kuller.
The case went cold until St. Paul police reopened it in 2010. The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension tested Kuller’s fingernail clippings, clothes and all other evidence that had been filed away for about 23 years.
The criminal complaint says Kuller, who was the landlord and resident of a St. Paul duplex on the 1200 block of Goodrich Avenue, was found dead by one of her tenants on Feb. 1, 1987. Her apartment had also been ransacked.
Investigators say she was found dead atop a bed with a pillow over her face. The medical examiner said she had been strangled and beaten about the head.
The testing led to two DNA matches: a woman from St. Cloud and Withers, who is currently an inmate at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Stillwater.
Records showed that Withers had been released from Ramsey County Jail about four days before Kuller’s murder.
The BCA concluded that samples gathered from a blood stain, a hair found on a pillowcase and Kuller’s fingernails were a mixture of both Kuller’s and Withers’ DNA. Investigators were unable to gather enough evidence to connect the woman from St. Cloud to the murder.
Withers had 12 convictions between 1985 and 2014: nine burglaries, one attempted burglary and two for receiving stolen property. He admitted to gaining access to most of the homes — all of which were within about a mile and a half from Kuller’s home — through windows. He also admitted once to stabbing one of the occupants of those homes with a screwdriver.
Withers will be sentenced Oct. 30 at 9 a.m.