Cops Say Genealogy DNA Cracked The Cold Case Slaying Of A North Carolina Teen
"Maybe now I can sleep," Reesa Dawn Trexler’s mom said.
The family of a 15-year-old young woman fatally stabbed more than 35 years ago finally has answers in the case, according to police.
Reesa Dawn Trexler’s nude body was found in a front bedroom of her grandparents’ Salisbury, North Carolina home on June 15, 1984. The teen had a severed spinal cord and multiple stab wounds to the neck and chest, the Salisbury Post reported.
At a Tuesday press conference, Salisbury Police Sgt. Travis Shulenberger revealed that the original investigators had obtained and stored a sexual assault kit containing DNA from semen found on Trexler’s body.
Despite the evidence, the case went cold.
In 2018, Jodie Trexler Laird, the victim’s younger sister, appeared on "Dr. Phil" in an attempt to end rumors she was possibly involved in her sister's murder. Her appearance “sparked new interest” in the case, Shulenberger said. Investigators then took a fresh look at the evidence, including the DNA.
Police say they got a break when they used a public genealogy website — the same technology used to capture the Golden State Killer suspect — to match the crime scene DNA to a suspect.
The suspect, whom police have not yet named, is now deceased. He was reportedly alive and in his 40s at the time of the murder. After securing a court order, authorities exhumed the man’s body and allegedly determined the DNA was a match.
“The analysis and investigation confirmed the suspect in the case was not a family member as had been speculated,” authorities said, according to a news release obtained by the Charlotte Observer. “With the suspect being deceased, the Salisbury Police consider the case closed and do not anticipate any charges being placed in relation to the homicide.”
Trexler’s mom, Vickie Oakes, told Charlotte's WBTV News she had “lived with the fact” her daughter’s murder would never be solved. "So many nights laying on the bed wondering and wondering and wondering, and maybe now I can sleep,” she said.