DNA from tossed cigarette cracks mysterious cold case rape, murder of mom found dead in bed: Report

Suspect Richard Knapp was convicted of sexual assault in 1986 but his DNA was never entered into a database

An Oregon man was arrested Sunday in connection with the unsolved 1994 rape and murder of a Washington woman who was found dead in her apartment.

The Oregonian reported that Richard E. Knapp, 57, was linked to the strangulation slaying of Audrey Frasier, 26, after police followed him for several months and recovered a discarded cigarette that was found to match DNA at the crime scene. Knapp was convicted in 1986 of a sexual assault in Clark County, Washington, where the victim was nearly choked to the point of unconsciousness.

Following his conviction, Knapp was ordered to provide a biological sample, but it wasn’t submitted into a database before its destruction in 2000, according to the news outlet.

Frasier was reportedly found dead in her bed and an autopsy determined she had been raped and strangled. Detectives said they don’t believe Knapp knew Frasier at the time of the slaying.

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According to The Columbian, detective Neil Martin said Vancouver police connected with Virginia-based Parabon Nanolabs last year and submitted DNA from the crime scene in June. The laboratory produced a digital composite of what the suspect looked like at the time of the slaying and now, he said.

In October, the laboratory provided Vancouver police with a genealogy report. Authorities said they had compared the DNA with one of Knapp’s relatives who had alerted them to his possible involvement in the murder.

The DNA was compared with a member of Knapp’s family who had pointed police toward him, detectives said. In February, police surveilling Knapp had recovered a cigarette butt he had dropped—allowing them to test it for DNA and directly link him to Frasier’s murder.

Knapp remains jailed on suspicion of first- and second-degree murder with sexual motivation. He was extradited to Oregon on Tuesday and was scheduled to be indicted the following day.

“As this case is starting to unfold after almost 25 years, the wound is being re-opened, and our family is experiencing the pain all over again,” a statement from the Vancouver Police Department read.

“But thanks to detectives Dustin Goudschaal and Neil Martin, our family may finally have the opportunity to find closure to our biggest unknown. We hope that the use of this technology can be used to bring closure to more families across the nation.”

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[Featured image: Richard Knapp/Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office; Audrey Frasier/Vancouver Police Department]