Thanks to advancements in technology in genealogical DNA matching, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has solved a cold case that was nearly four decades old. At a press conference on Sept. 10, …
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Thanks to advancements in technology in genealogical DNA matching, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office has solved a cold case that was nearly four decades old.
At a press conference on Sept. 10, Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader announced that Donald Steven Perea had kidnapped, sexually assaulted and killed Jeannie Moore in August 1981.
Perea died on May 28, 2012, from health issues. He was 54.
“While her family is pleased the suspect has been identified, they’re still struggling with the memories and pain this discovery has brought back,” Shrader said. In a press release he added, “we would have preferred to place handcuffs on the suspect (but) we hope knowing who and where he is brings them some degree of closure.”
On Aug. 25, 1981, at about 7 a.m., Moore, who was 18 at the time, was hitchhiking from her residence near West 48th Avenue and Depew Street in Lakeside to her place of employment near West 13th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard in Lakewood.
It was common for Moore to hitchhike to work, said Elias Alberti, a cold case investigator with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. On Aug. 25, 1981, she walked to a gas station near I-70 and Harlan Street, and in the vicinity of that area, witnesses saw her get into a red car, Alberti said. About 30 minutes later when Moore did not show up for her shift that morning, Moore’s manager called her mother to find out why.
The mother expressed concern, and this kicked off the investigation into Moore’s whereabouts, Alberti said.
Five days later, picnickers found Moore’s body in Genesee Park, which is located in the Jefferson County foothills. This is when the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office got involved with the investigation, Alberti said.
“Over this many years, there’s been thousands and thousands of hours dedicated to Jeannie Moore’s case, as well as the other cold cases that we have,” Alberti said.
Perea was 23 when he kidnapped and murdered Moore. He was out of jail on bond or awaiting court proceedings, Alberti said, for an arrest in Westminster on April 3, 1981, on a different case for which he was later convicted of rape and assault with a deadly weapon. He was in prison from 1982 to 1985. He had minimal criminal history after he got out of prison — traffic offenses and misdemeanor assault cases, Alberti said.
“When we solve cases like these,” said Mitch Morrissey, owner of United Data Connect, “I really believe that it has an impact on our community.”
Three organizations can be credited for solving Moore’s case — the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office a for profit company called United Data Connect and Metro Denver Crime Stoppers, a local nonprofit organization.
In 2008, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office re-examined the evidence in Moore’s case collected in 1981 with new technology specific to DNA, Alberti said. In 2011, the evidence was submitted to CBI and a DNA profile for the suspect was developed. It was uploaded into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) but had “no successful hits,” Alberti said.
In May this year, the sheriff’s office looked into the case again because of recent advancements in forensic genetic genealogy, Alberti said. Once learning that the DNA evidence in Moore’s case could be reanalyzed, Alberti said, the sheriff’s office reached out to United Data Connect for the analysis, and Denver Metro Crime Stoppers for funding assistance.
United Data Connect used the DNA profile of the unknown suspect to look for ancestry matches through public databases, and found potential family members of the unknown suspect.
This is what led investigators to determine that Perea was the suspect, but because he was deceased, they had to collect DNA from his biological daughter and perform a reverse paternity test.
Perea “was 3.3 trillion times more likely than anybody else to be the suspect, and now the perpetrator, in this case,” Shrader said.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office is pleased this case has been solved, Shrader said. He added that the department is committed to solving its other cold cases — 38 homicides, seven missing persons and two unidentified remains.
“Our commitment is bringing closure for all of those families,” Shrader said.
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