34 years after Wisconsin woman’s murder, “familial DNA” leads to suspect nearly 2,000 miles away

A Washington state man has been charged in the 1988 slaying of a Wisconsin woman after he was identified using “familial DNA searching” to examine records of people who may be related to the suspect.

Gene C. Meyer, 66, is charged with first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault with use of a dangerous weapon in the killing of 60-year-old Betty Rolf, CBS affiliate WFRV reported.

Meyer lived about a mile from where Rolf’s body was found on Nov. 7, 1988, just outside of Appleton, Wisconsin. The complaint alleges that Meyer fled to Washington after the slaying. He now lives in Eastonville.

Rolf had been sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled.

Meyer was arrested Wednesday, the sheriff’s department in Outagamie County, Wisconsin, said. He was jailed in Washington pending extradition to Wisconsin.

The criminal complaint says investigators had a DNA profile from a sample taken from Rolf’s body during an autopsy and searched a DNA database for any close biological relatives to the suspect. Based on that search, police determined the only suspects could be Meyer or his brother.

The brother provided a DNA sample that eliminated him as a suspect, the complaint said.

FBI agents tracked down Meyer to Washington, and obtained DNA samples from the door handle of his truck. The complaint says the samples matched those obtained from Rolf’s body.

Rolf’s family told WFRV that they were shocked to learn of the arrest.

“We didn’t know if this person was deceased or this person had other crimes. We just didn’t know,” Rolf’s granddaughter, Sue Srnka, told the station.

Rolf’s daughter, Sheila Wurm, recalled the day her mother was last seen alive.

“She was walking to work. She worked at the Country Aire [banquet hall]. She never made it there,” she said. “See, it had snowed out that morning. My mother had a fear of snow. She did not drive. My mother was a driver, but she walked everywhere she went. But she wasn’t going to work that way, and my brother usually gave her a ride but wasn’t going in that day that early. So she decided to walk, and she never made it there.”

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