The oldest known homicide cold case in Lancaster County, PA has gotten one step closer to being solved, all thanks to a coffee cup.
Pennylvania resident David Sinopoli was arrested n July 17 in connection with the cold vase of Lindy Sue Biechler after DNA was obtained from a cup of coffee at an airport earlier on this year. Sinopoli has now been allegedly accused of killing Biechler in 1975.
This is just another shocking example of how DNA testing and genealogy sites have been helping to re-open crime cases that had been left unsolved due to lack of evidence.
“This case was solved with the use of DNA and specifically DNA genealogy and quite honestly without that, I don’t know that we would have ever solved it,” Heather Adams, Lancaster County District Attorney, said at a news conference earlier this week.
19-year-old Biechler had been discovered by her aunt and uncle with 19 stab wounds and a knife sticking out of her neck on December 5, 1975. Evidence collected from the scene contained genetic traces of the killer, however it would be at least another decade before DNA evidence was reliable enough to be used in criminal cases.
CeCe Moore, the chief genetic genealogist at Parabon NanoLabs, began working on the case in 2018, according to Lancaster Online.
Here’s what Moore said, according to ABC:
“Usually I’m able to identify common ancestors. But because the common ancestors between the matches and the suspect in this case were probably back in the 1700s or 1600s, I wasn’t able to approach it the way that I do most cases.”
“It was really tugging at me, so I decided to develop a new approach. There was a very clear migration pattern from a town in southern Italy called Gasperina, to Lancaster, Pennsylvania,” she said, adding that she found names through old membership documents in a social club.
“Those membership cards listed when people were born. Because I knew that this suspect had roots in this small town Gasperina, I went through all of those cards and found the people who had immigrated from Gasperina to Lancaster,” Moore said.
She came up with a list of 2,300 names.
“About half are gonna be female. A certain percentage are gonna be too old or too young. I knew this person had to be fully Italian from Gasperina or close by,” Moore said. “I worked through each and every one of those families that had migrated from that very specific town. It was really only possible because of this very unique membership card record collection that Lancaster had.”
Then came more digging, using Ellis Island records and draft cards.
“I just quietly worked on it on my own time. I didn’t know if it would work,” Moore said.
Even after all that, Moore said she was unsure, according to Lancaster Online.
“Every time I had provided a lead to investigators, I was able to connect that person’s family tree to one or more matches, and the fact that I couldn’t connect this tree made me very concerned,” Moore said. “But there were circumstances about him (such as having lived in Biechler’s apartment complex) that made it seem unlikely that this was a coincidence.”
Police got to work right away once being told that Sinopoli could be Biechler’s killer. According to Lancaster Online, Moore had suggested the name to police back in Decemeber, however they still required hard evidence.
Fortunately, investigators were lucky enough to get their hands on a coffee cup that Sinopoli had used before boarding a flight and sure enough, the DNA obtained matched the DNA evidence from semen found on Biechler’s underwear at the 1975 crime scene.
David Sinopoli was arrested this week in Lindy Sue Biechler’s 1975 murder after a genealogist matched the suspect’s DNA on a discarded coffee cup. https://t.co/4UD3zpDjQr
— ABC 7 Chicago (@ABC7Chicago) July 19, 2022
“The finding of the extra coffee cup on the bottom of the bag and the totality of the circumstances is evidence that demonstrated to Det. Martin that the coffee cup on the bottom of the brown paper bag was Sinopoli’s cup or used by him,” the affidavit said.
Sinopoli “was not on our radar,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said, adding that “none of the tips over the years have suggested him as a possible suspect.”
Here’s what Adams said, according to ABC:
“There has been a never-ending pursuit of justice in this case that has led us to identifying and arresting Sinopoli. Certainly, law enforcement never forgot about Lindy Sue, and this arrest marks the first step to obtaining justice for her and holding her killer responsible.”
Now multiple cold cases have been solved using the newest genealogy techniques in recent years, with the most infamous being the arrest of the “Golden State Killer” in 2018.
Sources: WesternJournal, Lancaster Online, ABC
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Author: Anthony Smith
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