Almost 50 Years Later, We Know Who Killed Her

DNA evidence used to solve 1969 cold case murder
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 20, 2018 6:00 PM CST
Updated Nov 21, 2018 2:30 AM CST
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This undated photo provided by the Middlesex District Attorney's office shows Harvard University graduate student Jane Britton, killed in her Cambridge, Mass., apartment in January 1969.   (Middlesex District Attorney via AP)
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(Newser) – Harvard graduate student Jane Britton, 23, was sexually assaulted and beaten to death in the Cambridge apartment where she lived alone in 1969. For nearly half a century, the case went unsolved, but on Tuesday, officials announced Britton's killer had been identified thanks to DNA evidence: convicted rapist Michael Sumpter, who died of cancer in 2001 at age 54, 13 months after he was paroled to hospice care, WCVB reports. He had been serving a prison sentence for a 1975 rape at the time of his death. After his death, authorities started linking him to other assaults in the same area during the same time period. Authorities found one of his male relatives via Ancestry.com, Boston.com reports; that relative gave a DNA sample that was matched to a sample taken when Britton was found dead.

Sumpter had already been posthumously found responsible for a 1973 murder and rape of a 24-year-old and the 1972 murder and rape of a 23-year-old; he is also believed to have committed a rape in 1985 when he escaped from a work release. "A half century of mystery and speculation has clouded the brutal crime that shattered Jane’s promising young life and our family. The DNA evidence ‘match’ may be all we ever have as a conclusion," Britton's brother, the Rev. Boyd Britton, said in a statement. "Learning to understand and forgive remains a challenge." (A 78-year-old may be responsible for more than 90 cold case murders.)

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