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DNA Solves 1999 Cold Case Hospital Slaying

Cops used a public genetic genealogy database
By Josh Gardner,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 13, 2020 9:55 AM CST

(Newser) – The 1999 murder of a 23-year-old Colorado woman whose body was found wrapped in plastic in the stairwell of the hospital where she worked has finally been solved. Per Fox News, Colorado Springs police announced Wednesday that they finally found the man who murdered Jennifer Watkins over two decades ago, thanks to the help of a public genetic genealogy database. According to a Colorado Springs PD release, work with DNA collected at the scene began in earnest in 2017. That work led cold case investigators to Ricky Severt. However, they soon learned Severt had died in a car crash in 2001. Using familial DNA collected from his surviving relatives, investigators concluded this past September that the percentage of the population whose DNA can be excluded from evidence collected in the case is 99.99994%. Severt cannot be excluded.

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Severt was also an employee at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs, where the victim had worked as a dietary aide for just two weeks before she was sexually assaulted and killed sometime before the end of her shift in November 1999. Per the release, Severt was interviewed at the time and claimed to have never met Watkins, though his work schedule at the time did coincide with the date she was last seen. Though he cannot be brought to justice, police are sure they've finally found their man. “After all these years, we are grateful to finally give Jennifer Watkins’ family the answers they deserve,” said Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski said in a release. (Read more cold cases stories.)

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