Top Story #6: Cold case murder solved
A 1975 double homicide in Grand Junction that haunted loved ones and stymied investigators seemed destined to go unsolved until police resurrected the cold case and identified a suspect through DNA in 2009.
By 2010, a Mesa County jury hearing evidence against Jerry Nemnich in the stabbing deaths of Linda Benson, 24, and her daughter, Kelley Ketchum, 5, convicted the 66-year-old man on two counts of first-degree murder. As Nemnich stoically listened to his sentence of two life terms in prison, family members and veteran police officers shed tears and released a collective sigh of relief.
Although it was 35 years later. justice had been served.
During the September trial, Nemnich testified on his own behalf that he had been drinking with a stranger at a bar on July 25, 1975, and drove with him to the Chateau Apartments, 1300 N. 21st St., to obtain marijuana.
Nemnich testified he needed to use a bathroom when he found himself in Benson’s apartment and encountered someone wielding a knife, a person who he claimed had killed the mother and daughter.
Nemnich said he then saw the dead bodies, and placed his finger to the throat of the woman and threw the knife in the sink. Nemnich, who had been in prison for raping other women at knifepoint, said he fled because he didn’t want to be unfairly implicated by his prior convictions.
It was a story the jury did not believe.
Prosecutors said Nemnich’s blood was found under Benson’s fingernails indicating that she fought for her life; and that his blood was found in eight locations inside the apartment. According to testimony of where he said was standing in the apartment, Nemnich could not have seen the bodies because of the home’s layout, prosecutors said.
“He’s lucky he got away with murder for 35 years. His luck ends today,” Mesa County District Attorney Pete Hautzinger said during the trial’s closing statements.