23-Year-Old Utah Murder Solved With Help of DNA, LEGO Bricks

Image: John Sansing in 1999.
John Sansing waits in in Phoenix, Ariz., Thursday, Sept. 30, 1999, to be sentenced after pleading guilty for first degree murder in the death of Trudy Calabrese in February 1998. Sansing was sentenced to death for the torture, raping and stabbing of the church volunteer who was delivering free food to his family. Sansing's wife, Kara, who stood by during the attack, was sentenced to life in prison.CHERYL EVANS / Pool via AP file

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Investigators have Utah cracked the 23-year-old killing of an elderly woman — with the help of DNA and LEGO toys, police said Thursday.

Death-row inmate John Sansing, 47, was charged Thursday with first-degree murder in the death of 78-year-old Lucille Johnson on Feb. 2, 1991, after investigators reopened the cold case and discovered DNA recovered under Johnson’s fingernails matched a DNA profile for Sansing, who is currently incarcerated in Arizona for a different murder. Investigators also found that LEGO toy bricks found in the victim’s Holladay, Utah, home that day had Sansing’s son’s fingerprints on them, according to the Unified Police Department of Greater Salt Lake.

“We will never, ever, ever stop," Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder, who heads Unified Police, told NBC affiliate KSL. "You commit a crime like this in this community, and to our dying days we will continue to pursue you. We will hunt you down and we will solve these crimes."

Investigators reopened the cold case several months ago and began the testing that led to the breakthrough. Detectives also interviewed Sansing’s wife, who told investigators that Sansing had admitted to her that he’d killed an elderly woman in Utah, police said. Sansing is on death row for murder and sexual assault in a different case, according to court records.


— Phil Helsel