Nemnich DNA tied at trial to scene of slayings

QUICKREAD

• One in 40,000,000,000,000,000, 000.

Those are the odds of a white male other than murder suspect Jerry Nemnich having the exact same DNA profile that was found in blood in a cereal box in the apartment where Linda Benson and Kelley Ketchum were killed, according to testimony during Nemnich’s murder trial Wednesday.



The DNA of double-murder suspect Jerry Nemnich fully or partially matched eight blood samples in the apartment where a Grand Junction mother and daughter were stabbed to death in 1975, a Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent testified Wednesday.

In what prosecutors believe to be the most damning evidence against the 65-year-old Longmont man, CBI agent Cynthia Kramer told jurors she could conclude “to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty” that Nemnich’s blood was found in blood samples recovered from a cereal box in the kitchen, a drop of blood on Linda Benson’s chest, a wall in the bathroom, a bedroom dresser and a wall near the kitchen sink. Kramer testified that Nemnich’s DNA profile partially matched blood found on an ashtray, a towel and a bedroom wall near Linda Benson’s feet.

Regarding the blood found inside the cereal box, Kramer told jurors the odds of a white male other than Nemnich having the exact same DNA profile were roughly 1 in 40 quintillion. A quintillion is equal to one billion billions.

Kramer also testified that in two different types of tests conducted on DNA found on Linda Benson’s hands, one test determined that the DNA matched Nemnich and the other concluded that he couldn’t be excluded as a contributor to the DNA. In both tests, she said more than 99 percent of the population could be excluded as having been the source of the DNA.

Not all of the DNA in blood in the apartment where Linda Benson and her 5-year-old daughter, Kelley Ketchum, were killed was identified, however. Kramer said another spot of blood found near the kitchen sink contained DNA from two different individuals, with most of the DNA coming from a man.

Nemnich’s attorney, public defender Suzanne Katchmar, referred to that unidentified DNA in her opening statements. During her cross-examination of Kramer, Katchmar noted that crime-scene investigators didn’t wear gloves and suggested the DNA samples could have been contaminated.

Employer aided arrest

Working in cooperation with his employer, Mesa County law enforcement arrested Nemnich in April 2009 near Loma after a Front Range trucking firm agreed to change Nemnich’s route to bring him through Colorado.

Westco Express Inc., a trucking company based in Commerce City, agreed to a request by local authorities to change Nemnich’s scheduled route from California to Interstate 70, which would bring his tractor-trailer through the Loma port of entry. Nemnich was met there by investigators on April 8, 2009, according to testimony Wednesday from Grand Junction police detective Sean Crocker.

Nemnich had been under “passive surveillance” by the Longmont Police Department in the weeks leading up his arrest. Officers checked up on Nemnich during certain times of the day and took photos of him, Crocker testified. Nemnich was born in Longmont, where he lived with his wife.

Local authorities — a task force included the Grand Junction Police Department, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation and the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office — had been working to learn more about Nemnich after CBI authorities confirmed in January 2009 that his DNA profile was present on several blood samples taken from the Benson apartment.

Bundy ruled out

The jury Wednesday also heard from Larry Bullard, a retired 32-year law enforcement veteran who initially volunteered his time to reopen a cold investigation into the Benson murders.

Among other testimony, Bullard told jurors that he ruled out serial killer Ted Bundy in the July 1975 slayings, based largely on Bundy’s known location that month.

Bundy confessed to the murders of more than 30 young women between 1974 and 1978, including the slaying of 24-year-old Denise Oliverson in Grand Junction. Oliverson disappeared in April 1975, and Bundy confessed to the local killing, among others, shortly before he was executed in Florida in 1989.

Bullard said a trail of credit-card receipts nationwide established Bundy’s movements during the time frame.

“He was at school, at home in Salt Lake City (at the time of the Benson murders),” Bullard said. “It took me a couple weeks before I ruled him out.”

— Story by Paul Shockley and Mike Wiggins


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