IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

A 1975 slaying was solved after authorities got the alleged killer's DNA from an airport coffee cup

David Sinopoli had never been considered a suspect until a genetic genealogy researcher determined the possible killer's ancestors were from southern Italy.

A Pennsylvania man was charged with fatally stabbing a 19-year-old woman 46 years ago after investigators obtained his DNA from a coffee cup at an airport earlier this year, authorities said Monday.

David Sinopoli, 68, had never been considered a suspect in the 1975 slaying of Lindy Sue Biechler until a genetic genealogy researcher used DNA from the crime scene to determine that the likely killer’s ancestors were from a town in southern Italy, the researcher, Cece Moore, told reporters Monday.

After scouring century-old records and developing Sinopoli as a person of interest, Moore said, she turned the information over to authorities in Lancaster County. 

Lindy Sue Biechler.
Lindy Sue Biechler.Lancaster County DA's Office

“Quite honestly, without that I don’t think that we ever would have solved it,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said at a news conference.

Sinopoli was arrested at his home Sunday and charged with criminal homicide, Adams said. He was being held without bail at Lancaster County Prison.

Biechler's aunt and uncle found her body at her apartment on the night of Dec. 5, 1975 in what Adams called a "horrific scene." There was blood on the inside and outside of the front door, on the carpet and on a wall, she said.

A knife was sticking out of Biechler's neck, and investigators later determined that she'd been stabbed 19 times, Adams said.

At the time, dozens of people were cleared in the killing and the case eventually went cold, Adams said.

DNA pulled from semen in her underwear was submitted to a national law enforcement database 1997, but the profile yielded no matches, Adams said.

In 2020, Moore and her company, Parabon NanoLabs, began pursuing what she described as a "novel" strategy to identify people of interest for authorities after traditional genealogical research provided only distant matches, she said.

Moore determined that the person associated with the DNA had roots in Gasperina, a village in the region of Calabria, she said.

"There were very few people living in Lancaster that were the right age, gender and had the right family tree," she said.

Sinopoli had never been "on our radar," Adams said. "No tips ever suggested him."

Investigators surveilled him for months, and on Feb. 11 grabbed a coffee cup that he tossed in a trash can at the Philadelphia International Airport. DNA obtained from the cup matched the DNA found in Biechler's underwear, Adams said.

Authorities confirmed the finding after analyzing two spots of blood found on Biechler's pantyhose, she said.

A possible motive in the killing remained unclear. Adams said only that Sinopoli appeared to have lived in the same apartment complex as Biechler in 1974.

It wasn't immediately clear if Sinapoli had a lawyer to speak on his behalf.