Hometown Tragedy: The DNA of Murders | Full Episode | Very Local
- You just don't think of anything like this happening two houses away. - So far, there are no suspects. - [Erikka] Three decades old cases. - [Reporter] Found here nearly 40 years ago, she still has no name.
(camera shutter clicking) - [Reporter] Getting stabbed more than 70 times, but there was blood evidence from somebody else inside the store. - [Bill] They made a discovery of different locations of blood throughout the apartment. - [Erikka] Years later, new DNA technology helps investigators uncover vital clues.
- Even though some of these crimes are older, the world will move on, but these families, they're waiting for answers. - And as we walk up here, this is where Jane Doe was found. (compelling music) (car whooshing) - [Erikka] September, 1976, a young woman is tortured, drugged, and gagged, her body dumped near a cemetery on the outskirts of Baltimore. - [Reporter] A van was seen in the area. A passer by discovered her body, and called police. (siren wailing) - [Erikka] For decades, investigators have been looking for answers in the brutal homicide of a young woman known as the Woodlawn Jane Doe.
- There was a shoe found. There were socks found. There were keys found at the scene, and then there was also the white sheet that was wrapped around her, and it was very low thread count, which was speculated to be a hospital sheet.
- Her arms were taped behind, or tied behind her back, and there was a rope, I'd say, 8, 10, 12 feet long that was wrapped and tied around her neck. - She was thought to be between 15 and 30 years old. There was a sedation drug in her blood when they did the autopsy, and no one could identify her. - [Reporter] She was about five eight, wore this bead necklace, and had a tattoo with the letters that looked like JP. Police also created an image of what she may have looked like as a younger girl. - As we walk up here, this is where Jane Doe was found.
It was right here in this particular area. - [Reporter] Found here nearly 40 years ago, she still has no name. This bag for grass seed was over her head, and a piece of it was stuffed inside her throat.
- [Erikka] That type of grain bag is sold in just five stores, all in Massachusetts. A key discovered at the scene traces back to Massachusetts as well, but the most compelling piece of evidence, the pollen that remains on her clothing decades later. When investigators conduct tests, they find the pollen is rare, so rare that it's found in only two places, one of them being the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. - The crime scene collection process had been robust for decades, even before people knew that there was DNA evidence to be had. And so the good news is that for a lot of these cases, even though they did not anticipate DNA testing, DNA profiles, and DNA markers, they'd done a great job of cataloging evidence, you know, keeping it separate, and storing it in the best way that they could.
- [Erikka] Another piece of key evidence, a homemade tattoo that may be the letters JP for the Jamaica Plain neighborhood. Sergeant Doogan from the Boston Police claims tattoos like these were common at the time. - A lot of people had these homemade tattoos that they used to do with a pin and a ballpoint pen. - [Erikka] Even with the new leads, the Woodlawn Jane Doe case continues to stump investigators. - [Reporter] Despite their efforts so far, they haven't been able to determine her real name.
- [Erikka] 45 Years later, investigators are still searching for answers. They seek the help of Othram, Inc., a forensic DNA lab in Houston, Texas led by the husband and wife team of David and Kristen Mittleman. - In 2021, Bode, one of the more classic forensic labs in the country had extracted DNA from the evidence, and sent it to us in order for us to be able to do a forensic grade genome sequencing analysis. We have worked with as little as 15 human cells.
If I touch myself right here, I've left hundreds of cells. It's trace amounts of DNA, .12 nanograms. - And the way we do that is we take either the original DNA evidence, or we'll take an extract, a DNA extract that's been derived from the evidence, and we'll build a very large DNA profile. And that DNA profile will consist of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of markers.
And we use those markers to learn as much as we can about that person. - Once Othram Inc. gave the profile back to Bode, Bode uploaded that profile into a forensic genealogical database that is consented for law enforcement use. - [Erikka] After 45 years, the young woman known only as Woodlawn Jane Doe has a name. (compelling music) After 45 years, the young woman known only as Woodlawn Jane Doe has a name, Margaret Fetterolf of Alexandria, Virginia. - The police contacted me, you know, in the middle of August, and they said they were here for a murder investigation, and at that point I immediately said, "So I guess you're here for my sister."
- [Erikka] Edward Fetterolf last saw his sister Margaret in 1975. The teenager had run away from their home in Alexandria, Virginia, and her family never knew why she had never contacted them since, until now. - Margaret Fetterolf's family or herself didn't seem to have any connection to the Baltimore area, the Boston area, or the New York area that was speculated, and I think that that's one of the reasons it took so long to come up with the correct identity for the Woodlawn Jane Doe. - The testing we did at Othram wasn't available decades ago. It wasn't even available five years ago, but it's available now.
We pride ourselves in being able to help investigators crack cold cases. Even though some of these crimes are older, the world will move on, but these families cannot move on. They're frozen in time. They're waiting for answers, and it is just so important to be able to deliver those answers after decades, even. - So now that we were able to get an identification on her, obviously, we wanna go back to where she came from, and try to figure out who she may have been with who may have seen her last, if anybody knows who she may have left that area with, because she had to get here to the Baltimore area somehow, or where she may have been in the in between time.
- For them to find, you know, a perpetrator, whoever did this would be the ultimate goal, but just to have some type of closure for our family and my mom was better than the open-ended, you know, mystery of what happened. (insects trilling) - [Erikka] Our second cold case takes us to the small town of Pembroke, about 40 minutes south of Boston. On a cold February evening in 1985, Virginia Hannon returns home from dinner with friends. They drop her off outside her quaint two bedroom home, not knowing that would be the last time she is seen alive. - You know, back in February of 1985, Pembroke Police went to Mrs. Hannon's home, and they found her in her bed, and they initially thought that she had died as a result of hemorrhaging.
- My father had the caretaker go over, and I don't believe she got any kind of answer. The window was broken in the front door, so she came back and they called the police, and then the police went over. - Strange with the broken window that they thought it was natural causes.
- Yeah, yeah, right? Yeah, if that's what it is, that's even my father said that if it's natural causes, why is she in bed with a sheet over her head, and the sheet covered in blood? - The Massachusetts State Police assigned to the DA's office also were notified, went to the scene, and upon their arrival, they made observations of what they believed to be yaw marks or pry marks at the door. They noticed that a pane of glass had been broken, and they went into the home, and they made a discovery of different locations of blood throughout the apartment. So what they did then was they get the medical examiner involved, and they found out that upon a further review of her body, that she had, unfortunately, had been strangled to death.
It was then at that point treated as a homicide. - Virginia Hannon's body was found in the bedroom of her tiny Pembroke home. Although the woman had been stabbed in the abdomen several times, an autopsy revealed she died of asphyxiation after being strangled. Authorities aren't sure exactly when the murder happened. Hannah was last seen alive Sunday night when she returned home following dinner at a restaurant. - When I got outta work, my father called me and said, "Oh geez, you hear what happened?" And you know, "Virginia was murdered," and I'm like, "Well, you know, well what happened?" He goes, "Well, it was quite a mess.
I mean, a lot of people in the house, gruesome. She was stabbed to death, basically, and put back in her bed." And he said that they tried to tell him it was natural causes, and he didn't buy it. He was like, "No, nobody winds up like that from natural causes."
- This is a quiet neighborhood. All the people have been here all, oh, the newest family has been here 10 years, and you just don't think of anything like this happening two houses away. - [Reporter] A retired school cafeteria worker, Hannon had lived in her close-knit neighborhood for at least 25 years.
- [Richard] She worked in the cafeteria, the cook, serving the kids, and what have you, so pretty much all the kids knew her. She'd always take care of all the little cats, and had treats for the cats and dogs, and always talked to all the kids. - You saw her all around town.
She'd talk to you. She'd always wanna know how all the kids were doing, and you'd see her at the stores, and coming and going. She was always driving around town.
- While neighbors continue to wonder why, the police investigation continues. So far, there are no suspects. - They've started gathering evidence like broken glass, and pieces from her car. They thought maybe her car had been moved.
- During that same time period back then, there were a number of solved B&Es into very similar homes such as that, and that individuals were subsequently arrested, and also eventually were found guilty of those B&Es, and they had broken into homes, and stolen small amounts of liquor and cash, but that still remains part of our investigation. The interesting thing is once those three individuals were arrested and charged, all those B&Es stopped. - [Reporter] A widow for at least 10 years, Hannon had reportedly inherited several hundred thousand dollars a few years ago. - They figured it would be robbery, but if it was robbery, why, she still had her diamond rings on, and all her jewelry, and all of that was still there, so obviously, you know, somebody thought she had money in the house, cash money in the house, and they were trying to get the money from her. - She had been telling some friends of hers that she had got an inheritance from an aunt in California to the amount of approximately $380,000. Now, she was a 59 year old woman, a retired worker from the high school, from the cafeteria, and she was telling her friends that.
I think it absolutely could have made a target. I mean, people obviously need to be very quiet with their information, especially when you're talking about large sums of money, and you have people at some positions that may be desperate, and will do anything. So the enhancements of DNA has been a great tool for us, and I'm hopeful that when we get additional results in, we'll get additional information that'll help us in direct us in the right direction. Well, I think we always need information.
If people from that time period, living that area, if they have information that perhaps, for whatever reason, they initially thought not to come forward, perhaps they know people in the area, I would ask them to really reconsider, and come forward with that because, you know, somebody has gotten away with this horrific homicide of Mrs. Hannon, and we need to make sure we continue doing what we're doing. We have not forgotten. It is not going away.
It's been 30 years. It could take 30 more, but we're still gonna be here. - [Erikka] The Hannon family goes years without answers, until they receive the news they have been waiting for. (compelling music) - After an exhaustive testing process, in January, 2019, it was noted that the male DNA profile found on the items from Virginia Hannon's kitchen were all from the same unknown man.
- They got DNA or whatever from the car, and from the home, and they saved it all, so it's there. - So back in the mid '80s, nobody really would know what the value was sometimes of the extrinsic stuff that was picked up or not picked up, and everything that could have been done either forensically or physically evidence-wise back then was done. - Last year, Pembroke Police received a tip from a man who said that approximately one year prior, a man by the name of Jesse Aylward told the tipster that he murdered someone in Pembroke many years ago. - We have found time and time again, this class of killer, where they do something horrible once or twice in their life. They're not caught. They go about living a very normal life in a very normal community.
They, you know, are people that you would interact with in everyday life. - The tipster also told the police that Aylward had just died the day before. State police detectives assigned to our office obtained a warrant to obtain blood of Jesse Aylward from Brockton Hospital, and it was transported to the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab, where analysts were able to determine Aylward's DNA profile, which was then compared to the DNA found on the crime scene evidence. Though this investigation has spanned more than 37 years, we have identified Virginia Hannon's killer. It is Jesse Aylward.
- I would absolutely like to thank the police and the state DA's office for never giving up. And I would, hopefully, people hearing this person, who he is, might be able to think back, and say, something might shake loose in their head and say, "Well, geez, I know that guy," and give us a little bit more information on who he was, why he was, and you know, 'cause it was senseless. They got nothing. They just killed her for whatever. I don't understand it, but these guys definitely went out of their way.
- Even if the case is older, and it may be that the person that's responsible for the crime has already died, but it's critical to identify them. It helps repair the families. - [Richard] Oh, she was a great person, you know, great with the kids. She was a cook at the school, fun to be around. She was just a great person, happy.
- And a lot of the times, when you're looking at a predator, for example, they may be serial predators, and they may have had multiple victims, and so solving even the oldest crime could help then address solutions to a host of other crimes. (slide clunks) - [Erikka] Our final case takes us to Lockhart, Florida outside of Orlando. On February 3rd, 1996, Terrance Paquette starts his day as a clerk at the Lil' Champ convenience store. - Terrance Paquette was known to open the store, and to be there early in the morning. So one morning someone went in to try to find him, and he was not there, and so they left.
Later, another person realized that the lights of the store were not on, so they called the police to try to figure out what had happened. The police came, and investigators discovered his body in the bathroom. (camera shutter clicking) - He was stabbed 73 times, more to the torso, and his throat was actually slit. It was a very gruesome, violent scene. - The investigators collected all the evidence that they could, but one of the things that investigators noticed was that there was blood on the door handle of the freezer, and so they took us swab of that blood.
- [Erikka] Police gather evidence from the scene. With no witnesses, they have little to go on. (compelling music) - He seemed to be a very hard worker, and didn't seem to be very social in the community. And so when investigators tried to figure out if they could make any connections as to what possibly could have happened to him, they reached a dead end, and there were no leads that they could follow in the investigation. - [Reporter] The cold case was revisited over the years, but never went anywhere.
But when the Orange County Sheriff's Office established a new cold case team in 2019, they used blood from a freezer door latch at the Lil' Champ. - [Reporter] In 2019, homicide detective Brian Savelli began re-examining the case. - And I was just thinking if somebody was stabbed 73 times, there has got to be additional DNA that was not the victim's, and potentially the suspect's. - [Reporter] Paquette was stabbed more than 70 times, but there was blood evidence from somebody else inside the store.
- And so just with the advancements in DNA, and where we are in 2019 at the time when I opened the case, I figured there's gotta be something we can do. - The evidence was collected by FDLE. That's the law enforcement department in Florida, and they have their own crime lab, and they were able to get an extract from the DNA that was obtained at the scene. Currently, most other forensic labs are doing SDR testing, which is looking at 20 markers, and then matching it to the CODIS database, which is the known database of criminals. - [David] And you can collect those markers from the DNA at the crime scene, and you can upload it to CODIS, and if the person's in CODIS, you can identify them, and know who they are.
- The second DNA profile found at Terrance Paquette's crime scene was uploaded to CODIS, and led to no match. That's what I kind of call a DNA dead end. You have DNA of the crime scene, but CODIS alone is not going to tell you whose DNA that is. - They contracted Othram to use a forensic grade genome sequencing to build this expanded panel of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of markers. We built that profile, and we returned that profile, which consisted of all these markers, back to FDLE, where the investigators there used a technique called genetic genealogy to identify who was the donor of this unknown male profile.
- FDLE uploaded that profile to genealogical databases consented for law enforcement use, and was able to lead back to the identity of Kenneth Stough Jr. One of the first things that investigators do when they have a potential investigative lead like that is to try to collect DNA without the suspect knowing. - [Reporter] Blood which was not the victim's, and the latest genealogy database information to develop Stough as a possibility.
Given permission to keep tabs on him, they snatched beer cans he discarded at a Eustis convenience store. - [Kristen] They were able to get one of those beer cans, and get DNA off of that. And the DNA off of the beer can matched the DNA profile that was found at the crime scene. - If you can find the person that you think is the donor of the DNA, and you can ask if the information at the 20 markers of the beer can matches the information of the 20 markers at the crime scene. If they match, it makes a very compelling argument that that person probably was at the crime scene. - [Erikka] On November 1st, 2021, investigators came one step closer to seeking justice for Terrance Paquette.
With the help of Othram, investigators obtained a warrant for Kenneth Stough Jr's DNA, and matched it to the blood found at the crime scene. - [Reporter] Now more than two decades later, an arrest, 54 year old Kenneth Stough Jr., who used to be a customer all those years ago.
- We new he frequented that store from what he told us, cup of coffee, Scratch-Off lotto ticket, things of that nature. - [Court Official] Sir, you're here in 21-CF-14257, charged with first degree murder with a weapon, and robbery with a deadly weapon. - [Reporter] Deputies say the victim's family has since passed over the years, but friends were told of this update.
- We were able to make contact with them, and they're ecstatic. (eerie music) (light music) - 23 and Me and Ancestry do not allow law enforcement use, but consumers that have used those databases can take their DNA results, and enter them into consented databases for law enforcement use. When people choose to do so, they choose to help law enforcement identify these perpetrators and/or victims. - We've broken through most of the scientific and technological barriers to working these cases.
We've helped law enforcement solve a good number of cases. - Technology evolves, and eventually it will evolve to be sensitive enough to solve all the cases that have remaining DNA. And I do believe that every case out there that has any amount of DNA will eventually be solved.