A man accused of raping and murdering a teenage girl 30 years ago was nabbed after he submitted DNA for a recent domestic violence conviction and it matched genetic material taken from the 1985 crime scene, authorities revealed Monday.
Michael Jones, 62, showed no expression as prosecutors outlined the case against him in a DuPage County, Illinois, courtroom. Behind him were relatives of Kristina Wesselman, who was 15 when she was apparently ambushed in broad daylight as she walked through a field near her suburban Glen Ellyn home on a summer Sunday.
"My initial reaction is one of shock and awe," the girl's brother, Bill Wesselman, said afterward. "We've been waiting for new like this for 30 years. And it finally came."
At the time of Kristina Wesselman's death, the use of DNA to solve criminal cases was in its infancy. In 2000, after the science improved, investigators submitted DNA from semen found on her body to a national database, hoping that they would one day get a hit.
That happened, prosecutors said, after Jones pleaded guilty in July on a felony domestic battery charge and was sentenced to a year on probation and was ordered to provide a DNA specimen to authorities.
DuPage County authorities were notified of the match on Sept. 10. Investigators obtained a search warrant for Jones' home in Champaign, Illinois, about 150 miles south of the murder scene.
When detectives questioned Jones, he denied ever being in Glen Ellyn. They showed him a photo of Kristina Wesselman, and he replied, "As god as my witness, I've never seen her before," DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said.
On Friday, they arrested him, and two days later charged him with murder and sexual assault.
For 30 years, "the pain and grief and the fear felt by the Wesselman family and the entire community has never gone away," Berlin said following Jones' morning court appearance, in which the defendant was ordered jailed without bail.
The arrest, Berlin said, brings them "one step closer to obtaining the full measure of justice that they so richly deserve."
Prior to Wesselman's death, Jones had served more than six years in prison for raping and kidnapping a 27-year-old woman. He was on parole for that crime when he allegedly killed Wesselman, Berlin said.
Wesselman, a popular athlete and president of her high school freshman class, was last seen by her mother on July 21, 1985. It was Sunday, and the two of them planned to spend the afternoon watching old movies, Sandra Wesselman later recalled. She sent Kristina out to buy a candy bar, telling her, "Be careful, princess; I love you."
Her daughter never returned. Early the next morning, her body was found near a dirt path between her home and a nearby grocery store. She was believed to have been ambushed in broad daylight.
Over the years, DuPage County detectives ran down hundreds of leads that sent them all over the country, authorities said. They questioned suspects, searched pawn shops for the girl's missing pearl ring, canvassed the neighborhood repeatedly. None of it led to the killer.
In the end, all they needed was the DNA.