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DNA from cigarette butt, styrofoam cup lead to arrest in unsolved Pennsylvania slaying

Facial recognition software tipped authorities off to the suspect's identity, officials said. DNA collected from the cigarette and cup confirmed it.
dna match technology cold case solved
Styrofoam cup evidence from 2012. The cigarette butt used for the DNA match.Berks County DA

Investigators in Pennsylvania identified a suspect in an unsolved slaying through DNA obtained from a discarded cigarette butt and a bitten-off piece of a styrofoam cup, authorities said Monday.

Vallis Slaughter, 39, was arrested last week in connection with the fatal 2012 shooting of Julio Torres, 34, in a diner parking lot in West Reading, northwest of Philadelphia, Berks County District Attorney John Adams told reporters.

Court records show Slaughter was charged with multiple crimes, including first-degree murder, aggravated assault and conspiracy.

dna match technology cold case solved
Vallis Slaughter holding a styrofoam cup on March 24, 2012.Berks County DA

A second person, Jomaine Case, was previously convicted of conspiracy in the killing, Adams said.

Adams said there was an argument before the March 24, 2012, shooting, though it wasn’t clear what else may have prompted the killing.

“To date we have never determined what the motive was for this shooting, other than some senseless dispute,” Adams said.

Adams said Case did not identify Slaughter as a possible suspect and DNA obtained from the styrofoam cup found at the crime scene a decade ago did not match anyone in CODIS, the law enforcement database that contains DNA profiles of convicted offenders.

After the case was reexamined last year, investigators extracted a photo from a cell phone that belonged to “an alleged associate” of the man authorities believed may be the suspected shooter, Adams said.

Facial recognition software identified the man in the photo as Slaughter, Adams said.

Slaughter was staying with his mother in Jersey City, and in February authorities surveilling him collected a smoldering cigarette butt that he threw to the ground before entering the relative's home, Adams said.

A DNA profile collected from the cigarette matched a profile taken from the styrofoam cup, Adams said.

Slaughter was taken into custody last Wednesday. He is being held without bail in New Jersey and is awaiting extradition to Pennsylvania, Adams said.

A lawyer for Slaughter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Adams said Slaughter is also suspected in a homicide in Brooklyn. He did not provide additional details about the alleged crime and a spokesperson for the New York Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.