High and low-tech may solve old murder

For obvious moral reasons, there is no statute of limitation on murder. Someone who kills another human being should not avoid justice just because he or she managed to keep from getting caught for a certain number of years.

But it’s becoming abundantly clear there are technological reasons, as well, to keep homicide cases open.

Take the 1975 murder of Linda Benson and her 5-year-old daughter, Kelley, in their Grand Junction apartment. The case went unsolved for more than three decades. But last week, police arrested 64-year-old Jerry Louis Nemnich of Longmont on suspicion of killing the Bensons.

DNA technology that didn’t exist in 1975 made it possible to link Nemnich to the murders, police said.

But that technology wouldn’t have made any difference if it hadn’t been for the efforts of people like former Grand Junction Police Lt. Ron Smith and current Police Commander Greg Assemacher — along with several other retired and still-working police officers. They began looking into old homicides two years ago and found items from the Benson murders that they believed might contain DNA evidence which could be tracked using today’s technology.

Police sent the information to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation laboratory, and the laboratory linked it to Nemnich,  a man who had spent 14 years in the state prison system for a sexual assault committed in Denver in 1978.

The DNA evidence and solid police work led authorities to Nemnich, but that is a far cry from convicting him of a double murder that occurred 34 years ago.

Still, for the sake of those who knew and loved Linda and Kelley Benson — and for the public in general — we can only hope Wednesday’s arrest of Nemnich is a critical step in a process that will finally bring justice to the person responsible for the double murders.

And we applaud the police officers who worked hard over the past couple years, driven by a passion to achieve that justice.


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