How a cup of coffee could solve a crime from 46 years ago


(CNN) — For 46 years, the answer to who killed Lindy Sue Biechler was a mystery.

But with the help of DNA extracted from a coffee cup earlier this year, investigators were able to charge a Pennsylvania man with the 1975 stabbing of the 19-year-old woman.


Biechler’s aunt and uncle found her dead in their apartment on Dec. 5, 1975, with 19 stab wounds, lying on her back with a knife protruding from her neck and a dish towel wrapped around the wooden handle, the police said. Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office in a press release.

She had just returned from the grocery store, investigators said, and bags from the market were left on the dining room table.

Detectives with the Manor Township Police Department and the Pennsylvania State Police have conducted investigations into the homicide over the years, following up multiple leads and clearing dozens of people, the district attorney’s office said. Evidence was sent to various laboratories and multiple interviews with suspects were completed, the prosecutor’s office reported.

mug of coffee dna homicide

Lindy Sue Biechler.

Genetic genealogy analysis used DNA from the crime scene and ultimately identified 68-year-old David Sinopoli as a suspect, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Sinopoli was arrested at his home Sunday without incident, booked and is being held at the Lancaster County Jail without bail, police said.

CNN has reached out to the Lancaster County Public Defender’s Office, which represents Sinopoli.

“This arrest marks the beginning of the criminal process in Lancaster County’s longest-running unsolved homicide case, and we hope it brings some sense of relief to the victim’s loved ones and members of the community who for the past 46 years they had no answers,” District Attorney Heather Adams said in a news release.

DNA evidence from a cup of coffee

In 1997, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office said it submitted crime scene evidence for DNA analysis and a male DNA profile was extracted from Biechler’s underwear.

Three years later, the DNA profile was submitted to a national database, also known as CODIS, to see if there was a match to a known criminal. Typically, if a person is not a known criminal, he would not be in the CODIS system and therefore no match would be presented, as was the case here, the prosecutor’s office explained.

In January 2019, the investigation gained new momentum after it was taken over by the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit, and months later enlisted the help of Parabon NanoLabs to analyze the DNA obtained in the case.

Sinopoli was identified as a possible person of interest, CeCe Moore, a researcher at Parabon NanoLabs, said at a news conference Monday.

Because there were no individual genetic matches to the suspect’s DNA, Moore had to try a “novel, non-traditional” route to narrow down the potential suspect, he said. Given Sinopoli’s Italian ancestry, Moore studied geographic and immigration patterns, as well as associated surnames, and determined that the person linked to the DNA sample had ties to Gasperina, a town in the Calabria region of southern Italy. Italy.

“There were very few people living in Lancaster at the time of the crime who were the correct age and gender and had a family tree consistent with these origins, so this allowed me to prioritize candidates whose descent was determined to be exclusively from families with origins in Gasperina,” Moore said.

Sinopoli and Biechler had lived in the same four-unit apartment complex building at one point, Adams said during a news conference Monday, but did not specify when.

Aside from being neighbors, Adams did not elaborate on how the pair may have connected.
Investigators kept a close eye on Sinopoli through surveillance, and on February 11, “investigators surreptitiously obtained Sinopoli’s DNA from a coffee cup he used and threw away before traveling from Philadelphia International Airport,” the district attorney’s office said.

“There has been a never-ending search for justice in this case that has led us to identify and arrest Sinopoli,” Adams said. “Lindy Sue Biechler was on the minds of many over the years.”

“The police certainly never forgot about Lindy Sue, and this arrest marks the first step in getting justice for her and holding her killer accountable,” Adams added.



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