Saturday, February 27, 2010

DNA Helps Cops Crack Cold Case

The killer of Ellen Rutchick was identified 38 years later by DNA

DNA Helps Cops Crack Cold Case
by Brooklyn White

If there is one thing that is worse than being the victim of a crime or the loved one of a victim, it is probably being in the dark because of an unsolved crime. Your loved one has been gone for years, but there is no closure for you because their killer has not been arrested, tried and punished. You have no idea why they were killed and any kind of speculation only makes you more confused and bewildered. Cold cases are a thorn not just in the side of the detectives who are unable to solve them, but also for the victims’ families who desperately want answers, and with them closure.

So when new evidence opens up and the case is solved, there is reason to rejoice, even if nearly four decades have gone by and the perpetrator of the crime is now deceased. Relatives and descendants of Ellen Rutchick can now heave a sigh of relief, 38 years after she was raped and strangled to death in her apartment in Boston in 1972. Police identified the perpetrator as Michael Sumpter after DNA from the crime scene matched his samples; incidentally, Sumpter’s DNA also matched evidence in another rape case in 1985 when a 21-year-old who lived in the same areas as Rutchick was raped and the case went cold because of the lack of leads.

Unfortunately, Sumpter is now dead – he passed away because of cancer in 2001 when in jail serving a sentence on another rape charge. The only solace in the whole issue for the victims’ families is that Sumpter was finally caught and jailed for rape, and was serving time when he died.

DNA matching technology was used to identify the culprit on the initiative of Rutchick’s relatives. They had heard of a project that was started in 2002 to revive sexual assault cold cases and attempt to solve them using DNA evidence. With over 600 cases having been solved by this method, they wanted to see if Ellen’s murderer could be identified, even though 38 years had gone by. The detectives assigned to this project had already matched Sumpter to the 1985 rape case, so when they reopened Ellen Rutchick’s case, it was just a matter of time before they found that Sumpter’s DNA matched evidence stored from the case all those years ago.

DNA evidence is now increasingly being used to identify criminals in violent cases. Thanks to CODIS, the nationwide federal database that holds over 7 million DNA profiles, it is easy to identify criminals who have a past or who are repeat offenders. While the solving of Ellen Rutchick’s rape and murder brings relief to her relatives and friends, it also proves to the rest of us that criminals are not beyond capture – no matter how many years go by, as long as the technology exists, the bad guys will eventually be caught.

This guest post is contributed by Brooklyn White, who writes on the topic of Forensic Science Technician Schools. She can be reached at

1 comment:

Sharron Prior website said...

ABSOLUTELY AMAZING! This was a fresh story to me..I have never heard about this case! ..

thanks for sharing Robert..and to the family
Bless you