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Genetic heredity helps police find killer of Pennsylvania woman 34 years after her death

A 43-year-old woman whose mother was found dead nearly three decades ago in Reading, Pennsylvania, finally has some closure as police have finally been able to identify the killer — a man who died of natural causes four years ago.

Tamika Reyes was nine years old when her 26-year-old mother, Anna Kane, was found dead in a wooded area on October 23, 1988, with baling twine around her neck. During the investigation, the police found that the woman had been strangled elsewhere and her body was there. Later it was thrown in the forest.

Shortly after Ken’s death, a local newspaper ran a front page story asking for information about his death. In February 1990, about 15 months after Kane’s death, the paper received an anonymous letter from a “concerned citizen” who learned details that only the killer would know, police said.

But years went by and police still couldn’t find Kane’s killer, leaving Reyes and his two brothers and grandmother in the dark for nearly 34 years.

Finally, relief came recently for Reyes in the form of a call last week from a detective who reported that Pennsylvania State Police had used genetic genetics to identify the killer.

It was found that a DNA sample from the saliva of the man who licked the envelope containing the letter addressed to the newspaper matched what was found on Kane’s clothing, law enforcement officials said at a news conference last week.

However, Reiss’ relief soon gave way to despair when she learned that her mother’s killer was one Scott Grimm, who died of natural causes in 2018 at the age of 58. To his further sorrow, his grandmother died before he knew the story was solved.

How did investigators solve the case after 34 years?

Investigators analyzed Kane’s clothing and found traces of an unknown person’s DNA. They later determined that it matched DNA from the envelope from 1990, confirming investigators’ belief that the person behind the letter was the killer.

But while investigators had Grimm’s DNA profile, there was nothing to identify him because he was never arrested, authorities said.

Here genetic heredity came to the rescue of the authorities.

State police Trooper Daniel Omar said at a news conference last week that the effectiveness of genetic testing in cold cases depends on the quality of DNA collected from crime scenes and whether it has been degraded.

The detectives’ careful preservation of DNA evidence in 1988 gave investigators a solid foundation for experimenting with the new technology, said Pennsylvania State Police Sgt. Nathan Treat at a press conference last week.

“All those things were … preserved the way they should be, because they probably knew that whatever they collected could be that little bit of evidence (to solve the case),” Trett said.

What next?

Investigators don’t know much about Grimm except that he lived in Hamburg, Pennsylvania.

They are trying to determine if they knew Kane and have asked anyone who knows the nature of their relationship to reach out. So far, they have found no connection.

Kane was working as a prostitute when she was killed and may have been meeting a customer, Omar said, adding that police are trying to determine if it was serious.

The Pennsylvania State Police declined to release the 1990 letter to the newspaper or elaborate on exactly what it said.

“There were just intimate details about where he was disposed of, how his clothes were displayed, things like that,” Omar said. “This led investigators to believe that whoever wrote the letter committed the murder.”

Now that investigators have identified Grimm’s DNA, police will review other open cold cases to see if he was involved, Omar said.

Old wounds are still not healed

Talking about what Kane was like, Reyes, who now lives in Lenhartsville, Pennsylvania, said, “He was a firecracker — very outgoing, fearless, very honest, blunt and caring.”

Reyes said she is still upset by the media’s portrayal of her mother, who was unemployed at the time of her death.

“She was portrayed as this dead prostitute, like she deserved what happened to her,” Reyes said “It was painful. She was more than that, she was a victim… no one deserved what happened to her.”

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