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Mom came home to find babysitter dead 47 years ago, police say. Now there is a suspect

Mom came home to find babysitter dead 47 years ago, police say.  Now there is a suspect

Nearly 50 years after a teenage babysitter was found stabbed to death, Colorado police say there is a suspect in the murder.

DNA from a bloodstain on the blue jumpsuit of 14-year-old Maria Loraine Honzell helped investigators identify William Charles Kernan Jr., who died in 2010, as a suspect in her 1977 murder, Colorado Springs police said in an 8 news release May.

“The family and friends of Maria Honzell have waited more than 47 years for justice for Maria,” police said.

On the evening of Feb. 7, 1977, Maria was babysitting for a neighbor at her apartment complex, police said.

When the mother returned home shortly before 11:30 p.m., police said they found Maria dead in the first bedroom.

The children, ages 6 and 8, were unharmed and were “asleep in bed” when their mother arrived home, police said.

Officers arrived shortly afterwards and found Maria dead “with multiple stab wounds to the chest and neck,” police said.

The coroner ruled Maria’s death a homicide, police said.

Despite thorough investigations, which included reports, evidence and interviews, police said the case was cold.

With advances in DNA technology, police said they submitted several pieces of evidence to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for analysis, and a man’s DNA profile was created using a blood stain from Maria’s clothing.

However, the profile did not match profiles in databases, including those in the Combined DNA Index System.

Then in 2019, police said investigators turned their efforts to genetic genealogy.

Genetic genealogy uses DNA testing in combination with “traditional genealogical methods” to create “family history profiles,” according to the Library of Congress. Genealogical DNA research allows researchers to determine whether and how people are biologically related.

“Forensic research uses (genetic genealogy) to generate highly informative clues about the possible identity of an unknown victim or perpetrator,” police said.

After blood from Maria’s blue jumpsuit was submitted to Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based genetic genealogy company, police said the organization created a “genetic data profile” for the unknown man.

The profile was then uploaded to public databases in hopes of finding someone who could share the man’s DNA, police said.

“Extensive investigation” led investigators to Kernan, police said.

Because Kernan was cremated and has no living relatives, police cannot use DNA to confirm that he is the man from Maria’s case.

Nevertheless, police said they confirmed that Kernan “was a student at a local university and an acquaintance of the woman Maria Honzell had been babysitting on the night of her murder.”

Investigation also showed that, according to the police, he had previously been to the apartment complex.

Detectives have asked the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office to review the case based on genetic genealogy results that identified Kernan as a suspect, police said.

“After the investigation was completed, the district attorney is confident that the person responsible for the murder of Maria Honzell is William C. Kernan Jr.,” police said.

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