DNA from cigarette butt leads to arrest in 1994 murder

DNA from cigarette butt leads to arrest in 1994 murder
Police have charged Knapp with first-degree murder in the death of Audrey Hoellein Frasier. (Source: KOIN/CNN)

VANCOUVER, WA (KOIN/CNN) - The family of Audrey Hoellein Frasier has waited and hoped for answers for 25 years.

Frasier was raped and murdered in 1994.

"The father is getting older in age, and he told me he thought he was going to go to his grave without any resolution as to what happened to his daughter," said Det. Dustin Goudschaal, of the Vancouver Police Department.

Back then Frasier was 26 years old. She had a 5-year-old son, and was separated from her husband.

The evening of her murder, a neighbor called police asking them to check on her at her apartment.

"At the time of her murder, physical evidence including DNA was collected, but no matching information was in CODIS, a national database that contains DNA profiles of individuals convicted of certain crimes," Lester said.

The case went cold.

But in 2018, Vancouver detectives decided to try something new.

They submitted the crime scene DNA to a company that used genetic genealogy to build a family tree.

The company came back with a possible name. For months, detectives watched 57-year-old Richard Knapp of Fairview, WA.

"We were able to obtain abandoned DNA from that person in the form of a cigarette butt. This product was then sent to the Washington state lab to compare to the original source DNA from the crime scene," Goudschaal said.

It was a match.

On Sunday, police arrested Knapp during a traffic stop.

He is now charged with first-degree murder, and is expected to make his first court appearance on Wednesday.

Detectives hope the next step will be justice for Frasier and her family.

"We're happy that we can provide them with maybe not closure but at least the next step in the progression of this event,” Goudschaal said. “It is an open investigation. We're still working to make contact with witnesses and other investigative leads, so our information dissemination is quite limited at this time. But it is an open and active case."

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