Minnesota Man Convicted Of 1993 Cold Case Murder Based On DNA From A Hot Dog Napkin

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A Minnesota man tied to the 1993 murder of a sex worker was found guilty of her murder, thanks to DNA.

Jerry Arnold Westrom, 56, was found guilty of first- and second-degree murder by a Hennepin County jury on Thursday for the 1993 murder of Jeanne “Jeanie” Childs, 35, according to the Star Tribune. Westrom — who had been free on bail pending the results of the trial — was remanded into custody upon the verdict, which jurors arrived at in only two hours.

The first-degree murder conviction, by itself, carries a mandatory life sentence.

“My condolences go out to the victim and her family,” said Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, per the Pioneer Press. “They have had to live without justice for her brutal murder for nearly three decades. I hope this brings some sense of closure to them. Today’s guilty verdicts show that we will pursue convictions for serious crimes, even if it takes years to gather evidence.”

Neighbors from an adjacent unit in Childs’ south Minneapolis apartment complained of bloody water leaking from Childs’ residence on June 13, 1993. According to the Press, she was found dead in her bathroom shower, having been stabbed 65 times, mostly around her neck and torso area. Many of the stab wounds were inflicted postmortem.

Blood also covered the woman’s bed and bedroom.

Prosecutors told jurors that one of the stab wounds went “right through her heart,” claiming the vicious attack was “prolonged,” according to ABC Minneapolis affiliate KTSP.

It was revealed during the trial that investigators found semen — which they ultimately tied to Westrom — on Childs’ bloody comforter, and more of the same DNA was found on a bathroom towel and the bathroom sink, according to WCCO-TV. Prosecuting attorney Darren Borg said the killer left his footprints in the victim’s blood.

Police called it a “horribly difficult” case to crack, with so few leads and no witnesses.

Childs was a reported sex worker, according to CBS Minneapolis affiliate WCCO-TV, and investigators believed that would widen the possibilities of who her killer could have been.

There was no movement in the case for decades, and the case itself garnered little, if any, press coverage at the time.

Officials reopened Childs’ case 25 years after her murder, and the break investigators needed came in 2019 when police matched DNA from the scene to 52-year-old Jerry Westrom with the use of genetic genealogy. He had not previously been a suspect in the case and was a married father of two adult children from Isanti, about 40 miles north of Minneapolis, at the time his DNA was connected to the murder.

However, investigators discovered that he'd lived in the Twin Cities area from 1991 to 1993, and had multiple contacts with law enforcement — including a 2016 conviction for solicitation — according to the Press.

In 2019, investigators tailed Westrom to a hockey game, where he ordered a hot dog from a concession stand, according to the Press. Investigators then collected one of Westrom’s discarded napkins and obtained his DNA, which was determined to match the DNA found at the crime scene. He was arrested shortly thereafter.

He long denied having sex with Childs — or any other woman in all of Minneapolis — claiming to have no idea why his DNA was found at Childs’ crime scene, the paper reported.

Westrom’s defense argued that investigators at the time botched the original investigation, according to KTSP, noting that a bloody knife found in the victim’s sink was never tested for physical evidence, and claimed the actual murder weapon was never recovered.

His lawyer also claimed there were hairs found in the victim’s grasp, which allegedly belonged to a now-deceased male roommate who was allegedly a pimp, according to CBS News.

Childs’ mother, Betty Eakman, was in the courtroom when Westrom was found guilty, per WCCO-TV.

“I know that the law is finally going to take care of him for what he did, and I hope he can sleep at night,” said Eakman. “Jeanie was a wonderful person even though she had problems. She had a big heart.”

Westrom is expected to appear for a formal sentencing hearing in the next few weeks.