Evidence lost--Seattle detectives still solved case
Even though the police had thrown out the victim's clothes and the suspect's murder weapon, the detectives were still able to solve the crime with a letter and some biological evidence the medical examiner still had in storage.
Again...DNA comes to the rescue. Unfortunately, unless evidence from Theresa's case turns up, it's unlikely that her case will be solved with the assistance of DNA. But MAYBE someone will remember the night when the suspect came home...or remember an odd snippet of conversation....It doesn't take much to point an enterprising police detective in the right direction.
Police win award over cold case
first-degree murder charge
By Casey McNerthney
Seattle PI.com reporter
Oct. 26, 2007
There were days Seattle Police Detective Kevin Grossman daydreamed of telling Darrell Lowe he was arrested for a 1981 homicide. There were even more days when he thought he might not ever have enough evidence.
But Grossman said he never thought when he started investigating the cold case in 2003 that he and Detective Chris Young would take home Detective of the Year honors. Friday night, they did, for work that their colleagues still rave about.
At the Seattle Police Foundation's sixth annual awards banquet, Officer Chuck Allers received the Medal of Valor for saving a crew of police and firefighters during a pier fire July 4, 2006. Officer Patrick Chang received the Community Ambassador Award for what colleagues described as an amazing ability to connect with Seattle youths. John Schweiger, the Officer of the Year, was called a natural leader by his watch commander.
There were hollers and applause for the 83 award recipients Friday.
Among the favorites were the pair of detectives who Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske said solved a case so cold, it's doubtful anyone else would have investigated it.
Grossman first learned about the case in 2003 when investigating an attempted rape at Garfield High School. A police artist working with the victim sketched an image that looked like a man, now a registered sex offender, who had previously been arrested for the 1981 killing.
Grossman found a letter from the girlfriend of that man, describing the killing with details only the killer could know. But in 1981, there wasn't enough evidence to charge him.
The investigation file was meager compared with today's standards, Grossman said. And sometime in the two decades since 22-year-old Wilma Williams was stalked and stabbed to death, police purged the evidence -- including the victim's clothing and the murder weapon.
"That was devastating," Grossman said, adding that that kept the department's cold-case detectives from reopening the case in 2001.
Watching the TV show "Forensic Files" in his Lake City home, Grossman learned Southern California police solved a murder case with DNA kept by the Medical Examiner's Office. He called the King County Medical Examiner's Office about Williams' case hoping for a break -- and got one.
They had saved slides from their investigation, which police used to find a suspect's partial DNA. Grossman and Young interviewed five men they suspected.
But none of their DNA samples matched the DNA found on Williams' mutilated body.
After months of negotiating, with help from a King County prosecutor, Washington State Crime Lab officials agreed to accept the full DNA profile extracted by a private lab from only six sperm. The crime lab then ran it through its database and on Feb. 2 matched it to Lowe's.
Lowe's girlfriend also recalled him coming home the July night Williams was killed with blood on his body and telling her to get his clothes out of their Rainier Valley apartment.
"That was the last piece we needed," Grossman said of the investigation that accumulated thousands of documents.
On Feb. 15, they went to the Yakima County Jail where Lowe, now 53, was held on an unrelated theft charge.
Grossman jokes that he's a little jealous his partner got to tell Lowe, "You're under arrest for the murder of Wilma Williams."
"He didn't act surprised at all," Young said. "He only asked if lunch would be served."
As Young and Grossman accepted their award, Lowe sat in King County Jail facing a first-degree murder charge.
His trial is scheduled to begin in March, but the detectives haven't stopped their investigation.
"There could be other witnesses we don't know about," Young said.
"And if people know more about this, we'd like to hear from them."