1988 Cold Case Murder Suspect Identified by DNA Found on Victim’s Fingernails

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GALT, Calif. (AP) — A suspect in a 1988 sexual assault and murder of a 79-year-old woman in a small northern California community has been identified through advanced DNA testing of fingernail scrapings of the victim, authorities said on Tuesday. .

Terry Leroy Bramble was 32 when he sexually assaulted, stabbed and strangled Lucille Hultgren inside her home, Galt Police Chief Brian Kalinowski said.

Bramble was homeless and a registered sex offender when he died in 2011 of natural causes while living under a bridge on Highway 99 in Galt, Kalinowski said.

Bramble’s DNA, collected during a 1992 sexual assault conviction in San Joaquin County, matched DNA found in fingernail scrapings taken from Hultgren’s body, helping detectives solve the 34-year-old cold case, Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said.

“Nail scrapings became the key to solving this case,” she said.

Schubert said DNA testing has advanced so much that a very small amount of genetic material is needed to obtain a DNA profile.

In the past, a DNA sample had to be the size of a quarter to get a profile, but “now it’s less than a billionth the size of a Sweet ‘n Low packet,” said Schubert.

On May 23, 1988, two friends who had gone to Hultgren’s home to check on her after she had missed church the night before found her dead in her bedroom and called police, it said. Kalinowski.

A mother of two adult children, Hultgren lived alone after her husband died the previous year, Kalinowski said.

The coroner at the time said Hultgren died two to five days before her body was found and the cause of death was stab wounds to the chest and strangulation, Kalinowski said.

Hultgren’s murder was the only cold case in the town of 25,000 people 30 miles south of Sacramento, authorities said.

Authorities said the motive for Hultgren’s murder is still unknown.

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