WHEATON, Ill. -- An unsolved string of killings of young suburban Chicago women in the 1970s frustrated police for decades. Now authorities in DuPage County, Ill., believe that by cracking one of those cold cases, they may have uncovered the trail of a serial killer.
By digging up the remains of the suspect, and matching his DNA to the crime, investigators were able to identify Bruce Lindahl as the killer of 16-year-old Pamela Maurer in Lisle in 1976.
Though Lindahl died a violent death himself long ago, police believe they may have uncovered a series of his victims, and may finally be able to render some measure of justice to his victims and their families.
"We finally put a name and a face to this monster. And that's pretty much what he was," Lisle police Detective Chris Loudon said of Lindahl, who was from Aurora.
Maurer, of Woodridge, a junior at Downers Grove South High School, was found dead along the side of College Road near Maple Avenue on Jan. 13, 1976. She had been visiting a friend the night before when she left to buy a Coke at a nearby McDonald's and never returned. Authorities said she was sexually assaulted and strangled.
Police said they had always kept the case open, looking for clues. Ultimately, in a first for Illinois, investigators said they used genetic genealogy to solve Maurer's murder.
By taking a DNA sample from Maurer's body, investigators used her assailant's genetic traits such as eye color, build and facial features, to produce an image of what they thought her assailant looked like.
Investigators then searched public genealogy databases to identify potential persons of interest and build a family tree that pointed to Lindahl as a potential suspect. Authorities later obtained a court order and late last year exhumed Lindahl's body to obtain DNA, which matched samples collected from Maurer.
The sketch they had produced bore an "uncanny resemblance" to a photo of Lindahl in a high school yearbook, DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said.
"Today that mystery has finally been solved," Berlin said at a news conference where he was flanked by police and prosecutors who worked on the case.