The cold case murder of a Washington woman has been solved over two decades later thanks to DNA evidence from a cigarette butt left at the scene, authorities announced Wednesday.
Douglas Keith Krohne, who died in 2016 of accidental causes, has been identified as the suspect in the 1995 killing of Patricia Lorraine Barnes, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office Detective Mike Grant said during a news conference.
Barnes, 61, was shot twice in the head in August of that year, according to the sheriff’s office. Her body was found unclothed and partially covered by a passerby along a rural road in the county, according to NBC affiliate KING of Seattle.
The person last believed to have seen Barnes alive provided a description of a suspect, which led to an official sketch, but the person was never identified and the case went cold for years.
Barnes’ case was reopened in April 2018. DNA samples from the scene were sent to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory and two private labs, Othram in Texas and DNA Labs International in Florida, for testing.
The DNA submission to Othram led to a “common unidentified male DNA profile,” Grant said. That DNA was then compared to the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, also known as CODIS, but yielded no matches.
Othram then used the DNA evidence to search genealogy databases for genetic relatives of the suspect profile.
On Dec. 22, 2021, Othram provided a potential suspect name based on the DNA, which led investigators to Arizona. They worked with investigators in the city of Nogales and the medical examiner’s office in Pima County.
“At this time it was determined that the potentially matching suspect had died of accidental causes in September of 2016,” Grant said.
The Pima County medical examiner’s office provided the sheriff’s office with a sample retained from the suspect’s post-mortem examination on Dec. 29, which was tested and compared to the suspect DNA profile in January this year.
On Feb. 7, the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab confirmed the DNA matched the suspect DNA profile, identified as Krohne.
“The linchpin for the evidence was a cigarette butt that was found at the body dump location,” Grant told Fox affiliate KCPQ of Seattle.
“The evidence on the body could mean one of two, three different things but when you have a cigarette butt with the DNA and the DNA on her body and on items around her body, it was conclusive to me that we had the right guy, Grant added.
Grant said in the news conference that Krohne had previous addresses in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington, and would have been 33 years old at the time of the murder.
He also had a “significant” criminal history in Washington including a 1984 conviction for first–degree robbery and a 1994 arrest in Pierce County for second–degree kidnapping, Grant said.
However, the investigation showed no previous connection or relationship between Krohne and Barnes.
Barnes’ family was told her case was solved on Monday, with Grant calling the conversation, “emotional.”
DNA lifted from cigarette butts have cracked several cold cases, such as the 1985 murder of Florida mother Tonya Ethridge McKinley and the 1996 murder of Angie Dodge in Idaho.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism