Cigarette leads police to Florida chilly case homicide suspect

Daniel WellsImage copyright Pensacola Police
Image caption Police took DNA proof from a cigarette butt that Daniel Wells threw out of his automobile

DNA proof from a discarded cigarette has led Florida police to arrest a person on suspicion of murdering a lady 35 years in the past.

Daniel Wells, 57, was arrested and charged in Pensacola earlier this week for the homicide of Tonya McKinley.

Ms McKinley was discovered strangled and sexually assaulted on New Year’s Day in 1985, abandoning a child son.

Her case has gone unsolved, however police say DNA from a public database linked Mr Wells to her homicide in Pensacola.

“I didn’t really know if this [arrest] would ever happen,” Ms McKinley’s sister, Renee, instructed NBC News. “I didn’t really think this would happen in my lifetime, not after 35 years.”

In a press release, Pensacola police mentioned they interviewed her family and friends. Police additionally spoke with different individuals who had been celebrating New Year’s Eve at a neighborhood restaurant the place the 23-year-old was final seen.

But till this week, no suspect has been named.

“Despite having a good bit of physical evidence and dozens of interviews, over time, the trail went cold,” police mentioned. “In the meantime, a baby boy grew up without a mother, parents buried their daughter without knowing justice, and a killer was walking around free”.

How did police hint the suspect?

Their success got here after evaluating open-source family tree databases with DNA proof discovered close to McKinley’s physique. Detectives in California used the same method to find Joseph James DeAngelo, a suspect within the notorious Golden State Killer instances.

The database led Pensacola police to a number of completely different individuals believed to be Mr Wells’ distant cousins. After the invention, authorities constructed a household tree to establish suspects, and subsequent investigations led to Mr Wells.

Police tailed him and took DNA proof from a cigarette butt that he threw out of his automobile.

Mr Wells has been charged with first-degree homicide and first-degree sexual battery, and is being held at Escambia Country Jail.

Timothy Davidson Jr, Ms McKinley’s 35-year-old son, instructed The Daily Beast that he was pleased on the information of the arrest, however would solely really feel “complete when there is a conviction and justice has been served.

“It’s still kind of unbelievable, like I’m dreaming,” he added.

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