More than 46 years after a Pennsylvania woman was stabbed to death, police have arrested a suspect due to dogged investigators and the work of a woman who calls herself the DNA Detective.
David Sinopoli, 68, was arrested Sunday and charged with the Dec. 5, 1975, murder of Lindy Sue Biechler, who was 19 years old when she suffered 19 stab wounds to her neck, chest, back and abdomen, according to ABC.
CeCe Moore, the chief genetic genealogist at Parabon NanoLabs, began working on the case in 2018, according to Lancaster Online.
Moore uses genetic genealogy, which uses an unknown person’s DNA to trace his or her ancestors as a way of finding a suspect using voluntary DNA samples and a massive DNA database. At first, the Lancaster County case stymied her.
“Usually I’m able to identify common ancestors. But because the common ancestors between the matches and the suspect in this case were probably back in the 1700s [or] 1600s, I wasn’t able to approach it the way that I do most cases,” Moore said, according to ABC.
“It was really tugging at me, so I decided to develop a new approach. There was a very clear migration pattern from a town in southern Italy called Gasperina, to Lancaster, Pennsylvania,” she said, adding that she found names through old membership documents in a social club.
“Those membership cards listed when people were born. Because I knew that this suspect had roots in this small town Gasperina, I went through all of those cards and found the people who had immigrated from Gasperina to Lancaster,” Moore said.
She came up with a list of 2,300 names.
“About half are gonna be female. A certain percentage are gonna be too old or too young. I knew this person had to be fully Italian from Gasperina or close by,” Moore said. “I worked through each and every one of those families that had migrated from that very specific town. It was really only possible because of this very unique [membership card] record collection that Lancaster had.”
Then came more digging, using Ellis Island records and draft cards.
“I just quietly worked on it on my own time. I didn’t know if it would work,” Moore said.
Even after all that, Moore said she was unsure, according to Lancaster Online.
“Every time I had provided a lead to investigators, I was able to connect that person’s family tree to one or more matches, and the fact that I couldn’t connect this tree made me very concerned,” Moore said. “But there were circumstances about him (such as having lived in Biechler’s apartment complex) that made it seem unlikely that this was a coincidence.”
After telling police Sinopoli could be Biechler’s killer, police put in the legwork. Moore suggested the name to police in December, according to Lancaster Online. But that alone was not enough to charge him.
David Sinopoli was arrested this week in Lindy Sue Biechler's 1975 murder after a genealogist matched the suspect's DNA on a discarded coffee cup. https://t.co/4UD3zpDjQr
— ABC 7 Chicago (@ABC7Chicago) July 19, 2022
Police trailed Sinopoli to Philadelphia International Airport in February. Detective Larry Martin saw Sinopoli and three other people sitting together, according to court documents. Martin observed Sinopoli, who did not have a coffee cup in front of him, put his wife’s cup in a bag and throw it away. Martin grabbed the bag out of the trash and found there was a cup under the cup used by Sinopoli’s wife.
“The finding of the extra coffee cup on the bottom of the bag and the totality of the circumstances is evidence that demonstrated to Det. Martin that the coffee cup on the bottom of the brown paper bag was Sinopoli’s cup or used by him,” the affidavit said.
The DNA on the cup matched DNA from semen found on Biechler’s underwear.
Sinopoli “was not on our radar,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said, adding that “none of the tips over the years have suggested him as a possible suspect.”
“There has been a never-ending pursuit of justice in this case that has led us to identifying and arresting Sinopoli,” Adams said, ABC reported. “Certainly, law enforcement never forgot about Lindy Sue, and this arrest marks the first step to obtaining justice for her and holding her killer responsible.”
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