Urbana officers hope crime lab can help solve 1988 cold case

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URBANA, Ill. (AP) — Local detectives say they have found evidence that hadn't been sent for testing in the 1988 cold case stabbing of a University of Illinois veterinary student.

The Urbana officers hope new technology, including better DNA and blood analysis techniques, can help them solve the death of 21-year-old Maria Caleel, who was fatally stabbed in March 1988 in her apartment, where there was a report of a burglary in progress.

Urbana Police Sgt. Matt Rivers and Officer Mike Cervantes have been working full time on the case for the past two weeks after months of looking at it while on the night shift. They sent about 20 samples to the state crime lab after combing through 28-year-old boxes of evidence, Rivers told The (Champaign) News-Gazette (http://bit.ly/1UyJqEP ).

The detectives are working with a particular technician at the state lab who's "very familiar with the case," he said.

Rivers said all of the items they discovered, which hadn't been sent to the lab for testing, have potential for DNA testing with newer, more sensitive techniques.

"Also, they used to require large blood samples for evidence, but now they can do a lot with a small samples and find markers," he said.

The Caleel family also gave their approval for a new Facebook page, titled "Remembering Maria Caleel," where people can post possible clues about the slaying. It was set up Friday.

"We've already seen a lot of interest in the Facebook page," Rivers said. "Those things can catch on; we want to get as many as people involved as possible. We'll take any evidence, it doesn't matter how small."

Over the past few decades, hundreds of interviews have been conducted and thousands of leads have been investigated, according to Rivers.

The detectives have a few people of interest in mind, but Rivers said they "want the evidence to speak for itself."

The detectives expect to get the results back in a month a more.


Information from: The News-Gazette, http://www.news-gazette.com

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