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#ColdCase13 005 UPDATE: DNA discovered thanks to new tech

Jerry Gretzinger
Updated: July 09, 2020 07:09 PM
Created: July 09, 2020 03:40 PM

We told you in February that Albany police investigators were packing up boxes of evidence that had sat in storage for nearly 60 years and shipping it across the country. They were hoping that new technology and testing methods could give them a break in one of the city's oldest cold cases. And that's exactly what they got.

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It's a crime as shocking today as it was in 1964. Catherine Blackburn, 50, was found murdered, sexually assaulted, and mutilated. Hundreds of pages of notes and interviews, and ample physical evidence were not enough to help police track down her killer.

But something called the MVAC system -- a sort of high-tech DNA wet-vac -- was put to work on that evidence recently.  Now the results are in.

Sgt. Melissa Rockwell has been the driving force in the department’s renewed interest in the Blackburn murder. She’s been building a team of people and organizations committed to solving it.

Most recently, that included the Pure Gold Forensics lab in California. Rockwell sent them evidence in February that hadn't seen the light of day for decades -- including a bloody sheet the killer used to soak up the blood.  But rolled up with that sheet was a handkerchief.

The MVAC system uncovered the secrets hidden in the evidence for nearly 56 years -- revealing half a dozen previously undetected DNA samples.

The samples are being compared to persons of interest -- old and new -- thanks in part to the department's partnership with the College of Saint Rose Cold Case Analysis Center.

It's long been believed Blackburn wasn't the killers first or last victim. The new DNA samples will be compared to murders in other states from the same era and with striking similarities -- like the post-mortem mutilation and how the body was left in a crucifixion pose.

It may still take time. But now, after 56 years, the end seems closer than ever.


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