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Charles County Sheriff’s Office hoping new technology will help solve the 1987 murder of Juanita “Jenny” Rollins

The 29-year-old was attacked in her home on the morning of April 2, 1987 in La Plata, Maryland.

On the morning of April 2, 1987, at approximately 6:30 a.m., police responded to a 911 call in La Plata, Maryland concerning the caller’s neighbor, 29-year-old single mother-of-two Juanita “Jenny” Rollins.

When police arrived at the scene, they discovered Jenny suffering from multiple injuries. She was transported to Physicians Memorial Hospital in La Plata, where she was ultimately pronounced dead. 

Dateline spoke with Lesley Cassidy, Jenny’s former brother-in-law. He was married to Jenny’s sister Lee at the time and remembers getting the news. The couple was asleep when Lee got the call that her sister was in the hospital. 

Lesley recalls Lee originally being told that Jenny had been bitten by a dog, but he does not remember why that was thought at the time. 

Lee immediately went to the hospital, where she learned the much more sinister truth. 

“20 minutes later she called me and told me [Jenny] was dead and I said, ‘What do you mean dead?’” Lesley told Dateline. 

Dateline spoke with the media relations specialist from the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, Diane Richardson, who told Dateline that the cause of Jenny’s death was “strangulation and blunt neck injury.” The manner of death was homicide, Richardson said.

Jenny’s two young children were in the home at the time of the attack. The Charles County Sheriff’s Office confirmed to Dateline that the children were home and interviewed by investigators, but did not elaborate on what the children saw. One of Jenny’s other sisters was given custody of the children, but after some time the guardianship was changed over to Lee and Lesley.

The Charles County Sheriff’s Office confirmed numerous family members were also interviewed. 

Lesley told Dateline that when the family was eventually allowed to enter Jenny’s home after the murder, he saw some things that stuck out to him. 

“When we were finally allowed to go into the townhouse and I went in, they cut a piece of carpet out,” Lesley said. “But it looked like about a 1 ft. by 1 ft. section. Looks like it might have had blood on it.” 

The Charles County Sheriff’s Office also confirmed that numerous items of evidence were collected from Jenny’s home, but did not elaborate on what specific evidence they found. 

Only days later, someone was arrested for the murder. Media specialist Diane Richardson told Dateline in an email that “an arrest was made, but charges were later dropped.” She did not elaborate further. 

Richardson confirmed that the “case remains open” and investigators with the Charles County Sheriff’s Department “re-evaluate the case on a regular basis.” 

“Similar to any homicide investigation, especially cold cases, investigators will evaluate and examine people who were named in the original report while examining the possibility of new suspects with tips or new information,” Richardson explained. 

However, over time, that has grown more difficult for investigators, as many people involved in Jenny’s life have died — including both of her children, the children’s father, and Lesley’s ex-wife, Lee. 

“From a review of the original investigation in 1987, the effort and details documented in the report appear to be thorough,” Richardson told Dateline. “Investigative methods, evidence collection, and evidence analysis appeared to be commensurate with available technology at the time.”

However, after more than three decades with no answers, the sheriff’s office is taking a new approach. “Our Forensic Science Section and cold case detective continue to evaluate this case,” Richardson wrote. “As new technology and procedures are established in forensic science, we see how that can be applied to the Rollins investigation.”

“Our Forensics Unit is comprised of mostly women who are so passionate about solving cold cases,” Richardson wrote. “Working alongside our cold case investigators, they are making progress, and they never give up.”

After all this time, Lesley feels a sense of responsibility to push for answers in Jenny’s case. “Jenny deserves to rest in peace,” he told Dateline. “Which I don’t think she’s been able to.” 

Dateline reached out to Jenny’s surviving sisters for an interview, but was unable to get ahold of them. According to a Facebook post from the Charles County Sheriff’s Department, “CCSO and Crime Solvers are offering a reward of up to $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest or indictment.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the Charles County Crime Stoppers at 1-866-411-TIPS.