MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Investigators say forensic DNA testing and an online genealogy website helped Minneapolis police charge a metro hockey dad in a 25-year-old cold case murder.
Fifty-two-year-old Jerry Westrom is accused of killing Jeanne Ann Childs in Minneapolis in 1993. He faces second-degree murder in connection to the June 13, 1993 incident.
Childs was 35 years old when she was found stabbed to death in her south Minneapolis apartment.
Minneapolis police say the Cold Case Task Force, along with the FBI and Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, reviewed the case in 2015. Three years later, after consulting with an online genealogy website, they say Westrom’s DNA matched DNA evidence left at the crime scene.
In January 2019, officers began to surveil Westrom with the intent of obtaining a DNA sample. They tracked him to a hockey game where he was observed wiping his mouth with a napkin and throwing it into a trashcan. Investigators then obtained the DNA sample, which was analyzed by the BCA.
The BCA determined the napkin contained a mixture of DNA, but a major male profile observed was consistent with DNA samples recovered from the crime scene.
Minneapolis police then arrested Westrom Monday in Waite Park. Police say he denied having any involvement in the murder and had no knowledge of why his DNA would be present at the scene.
Police say Westrom’s DNA was also found to be a match to the sperm cell fraction sample recovered from the comforter on the bed and a towel in the bathroom.
Westrom’s neighbors described him as a nice guy and a family man. He owned and operated independent businesses in Isanti County for a number of years.
Westrom’s criminal history shows traffic violations and multiple DWI convictions. He was convicted in 2015 of agreeing to hire a prostitute in Stearns County. The criminal complaint states he admitted to talking to a woman he found in the escorts section of backpage.com and planned to pay her $100 for sex.
Police admit it has taken decades to make an arrest in Childs’ murder, but say they never gave up.
“There is no known relationship between the individuals, and that’s what makes these sort of cases so hard to solve,” said Minneapolis police spokesperson John Elder. “And through forensics and through updated technology, we’re able to come back and get people placed under arrest for crimes they committed long ago.”