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DNA from letter sent to local newspaper helps solve 34-year-old cold case murder of Pennsylvania mom

Anna Kane, 26, was found strangled to death in Pennsylvania in October 1988. DNA testing this year finally identified her killer as Scott Grim, who died in 2018.

The cold case murder of a 26-year-old Pennsylvania mother in 1988 has finally been solved thanks to DNA evidence found on a chilling letter sent to a local newspaper decades ago with intimate details of the crime. 

Anna Kane was 26 when she was strangled to death and her body was found along Ontelaunee Trail in Perry Township on Oct. 23, 1988.

Anna Kane
Anna Jean Kane, 26, was found beaten and strangled to death on Oct. 23, 1988.Pennsylvania Crime Stoppers

Nearly 35 years after her grisly death, her killer has been identified as Scott Grim thanks to breakthrough DNA genetic genealogy technology, Pennsylvania State Police and Berks County District Attorney John Adams said at a news conference Thursday.

DNA evidence was collected from Kane's clothes after the killing. When it was tested, it yielded an undetermined male DNA profile, but no match was found.

In 1990, the Reading Eagle newspaper ran a front-page story about Kane's death asking for information.

In February 1990, the paper got an anonymous letter signed by a "concerned citizen" that had “numerous intimate details” about the homicide, State Police Trooper Daniel Womer said.

“This led investigators to believe that whoever wrote the letter had committed the homicide,” Womer said. 

The letter’s saliva-sealed envelope was tested for DNA, which matched the DNA profile found on Kane's clothing.

This year, genetic genealogy testing from the DNA profile was completed by Parabon NanoLabs in Virginia — which has helped solve a slew of cold cases.

The results determined that a possible suspect was Scott Grim. However, he will never face justice. He died in 2018 of natural causes at age 58. He would have been 26 at the time of Kane's murder.

Police then obtained a direct sample of Grim's DNA for their own testing, and it matched the DNA profile on the letter’s envelope and the profile found on Kane's clothes. Officials did not elaborate on how they got the sample.

“We were able to take the direct sample from Scott Grim. ... We had our Pennsylvania State Police Lab do a direct comparison to the DNA from the letter in 1990, as well as the original evidence from the victim’s clothing, all of which showed the same contributor being Scott Grim — his DNA profile was on all of those items,” Womer said.

Police praised the original investigators, saying their collection of evidence was key to solving the case now that DNA technology has evolved.

Police said Grim did not appear in the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System, which was launched in 1998. They found that Grim, who hailed from the Hamburg area, was arrested in Berks County in 2002 in a harassment case in which he was alleged to have mailed intimidating letters to his former business partner.

Officials said an investigation into Grim's history and background continues, including his exact relationship with Kane. Police said that so far interviews with people who knew Grim have not revealed any relationship.

"That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some connection we haven’t found yet," Womer said.

Womer acknowledged that it has been previously reported that Kane worked as a prostitute and said it is possible Grim could have been a customer.

The Reading Eagle described Kane as a mother of three. She had lived in Reading but had moved to the Birdsboro area shortly before she was murdered, officials said.

Adams, the district attorney, praised authorities for their diligent work.

"I know in some respects the fact that he is deceased, he will never face justice as we all would have hoped for this homicide," he said. "But we solved it. We gave some closure to the family."