CHICAGO (AP) — A suspected serial killer strangled a suburban Chicago teenage girl in 1976 and likely killed another woman just days before she was to testify in court that he raped her, police said Monday.
Lisle Police Detective Chris Loudon, who investigated the January 1976 slaying of 16-year-old Pamela Maurer of Woodridge, said during a news conference that DNA recovered from the exhumed remains of Bruce Lindahl indicated he killed the teen.
“I suspect him to be a serial killer," Loudon said of Lindahl, whose body was exhumed in November.
Authorities are trying to determine if photographs of unidentified females that were found in Lindahl's home depict other victims.
The announcement came on the 44th anniversary of the day a motorist found Maurer's body by the side of a road. She was last seen a day earlier leaving a friend's house to buy a soft drink.
At the time, police concluded that her body may have been placed there by her killer to make her death look like a hit-and-run. But the coroner determined Maurer had been strangled, and police concluded that a rubber hose found nearby was used to end her life.
The case went unsolved for decades, but that changed with advances in forensic technology. Nineteen years ago, investigators analyzed evidence that had been collected from the girl's body and stored, and they developed a profile of the suspected killer, DuPage County County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said at the news conference.
No suspect was immediately identified. But last year, advanced DNA testing was conducted, enabling scientists to create a “snapshot” of the suspect's traits including eye color, skin color, and the shape of his face.
That information, coupled with the analysis of a public genealogy database, led authorities to identify Lindahl as a suspect, he said.
That identification using genealogical evidence — the first of its kind used in Illinois in a murder case, Berlin said — led to the discovery of what authorities believe was a series of crimes by Lindahl, including the sexual assault of young women and at least two other homicides.
When police learned Lindahl's name, they quickly discovered that the 29-year-old resident of nearby Aurora had died during a fatal knife attack on 18-year-old Charles Huber of Naperville in 1981. He apparently accidentally slashed a major artery in his own leg and bled to death. The bodies of both men were found together.
At the time of his death, Lindahl was a suspect in the 1980 rape and kidnapping of Debra Colliander. Berlin said authorities believed Lindahl abducted the woman from a suburban shopping center, and raped her in his Aurora home before she managed to escape and call police from a neighbor's house.
He was charged then released from jail after posting bail. Days before she was to testify at his trial, Colliander vanished, forcing prosecutors to drop the charges in 1981.
In 1982, several months after Lindahl's death, Colliander's body was discovered by a farmer in a shallow grave in rural Oswego Township. An autopsy was unable to determine how she died, but her death was ruled a homicide.
“All the evidence points to Bruce Lindahl being responsible for her murder," Berlin said, leaving open the possibility that he hired someone to kill her or did it himself. “We believe Debra Colliander was murdered in order to prevent her from testifying at Lindahl's rape trial.”
Berlin also said there is evidence linking Lindahl to the 1979 disappearance of a Downers Grove high school student named Deborah McCall. After Lindahl's death, photographs of McCall were found in Lindahl's apartment, but her body has never been found.