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Cold Case Closed After Cigarette Butt Helps Solve 26-Year-Old Murder

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Cold Case Closed After Cigarette Butt Helps Solve 26-Year-Old Murder

Detectives in Washington have confirmed the conclusion of a 26-year-old murder case thanks to state-of-the-art forensic genome sequencing.

Patricia Barnes, 61, was found dead in South Kitsap County on August 25, 1995 after being shot twice in the head. Detectives in the area launched an investigation that included a 'thorough processing of the scene' and the release of a composite drawing of a suspect, but for more than two decades detectives were unable to identify a suspect in the killing.

The case lay dormant until 2018, when Kitsap County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) reopened the investigation as part of a renewed focus on working on 'cold cases', the sheriff's office explained in a press release.

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Sketch of suspect (Kitsap County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)
Sketch of suspect (Kitsap County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)

Detective Mike Grant selected Barnes' case and set about making a 'checklist' to try and solve it, he told Fox 13 News. Detectives examined all the evidence, including a cigarette butt, and entered it into their database before considering what could be tested and submitting a handful of items to a lab.

The testing had revealed an 'unknown male profile', which led to the officers identifying 'more evidence that contained DNA material'.

The sheriff's office explained that analysis by Othram Labs included forensic grade genome sequencing and the use of forensic genealogy, which searched genealogical databases for genetic relatives to the profile found on the evidence. With these processes, the lab was able to offer a 'potential name for the yet unidentified DNA belonging to the suspect in December of 2021'.

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The detectives discovered that the potentially matching subject had died in September 2016. The Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office then provided detectives with a DNA sample from the autopsy examination of the suspect, and on February 7, 2022, the Washington State Crime Lab confirmed the DNA sample matched the DNA profile.

Patricia Barns (Kitsap County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)
Patricia Barns (Kitsap County Sheriff's Office/Facebook)

The suspect was identified as Douglas Keith Khrohne, who would have been 33 years old at the time Barnes was killed. He had a 'significant criminal history' in the state, including a conviction for 1st Degree Robbery and an arrest for Kidnapping in the 2nd degree.

Grant said the cigarette butt found at the same location as Barnes' body was the 'linchpin for the evidence', adding: "The evidence on the body could mean one of two, three different things but when you have a cigarette butt with the DNA and the DNA on her body and on items around her body, it was conclusive to me that we had the right guy." 

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The detective praised the work of the initial detectives on the case for helping resolve it years later, saying: "The ultimately successful conclusion of this 'cold case' investigation belongs to the initial investigative response by the Detectives in 1995. The success of modern investigative methods can only happen when built upon a thorough and professional foundation of good police work."

Following the identification of the suspect, Grant was able to share the news with members of Barnes' family, who were described as 'shocked' and 'very grateful' for the resolution.

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Featured Image Credit: Kitsap County Sheriff's Office/Alamy

Topics: News, US News, Crime, Life

Emily Brown
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