true crime

Jeannie Moore's murder was unsolved for 38 years. Last week, police named her killer.

Content warning: This post contains details of violence and sexual assault. 

On 25 August, 1981, 18-year-old Jeannie Moore was hitchhiking from her home to the convenience store where she worked in Lakewood, Colorado.

At a gas station near I-70 and Harlan Street, witnesses said she got into a red vehicle, probably a Ford LTD or Galaxy, that pulled over to pick her up at 7.10am.

It was the last time she was ever seen alive.

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When she failed to turn up for work, the store manager called Moore’s mother, who alerted authorities.

Five days later, a family out for a picnic discovered her body in nearby Genesse Park.

An autopsy revealed she had been brutally raped and killed by ‘several blows to the head’.

Despite widespread media coverage and a detailed police investigation, during which officers managed to obtain a semen sample from the victim’s clothing, the murder remained unsolved for 38 years.

Then, in May this year, there was a breakthrough.

The county’s lead cold case detective, Elias Alberti, flagged that the infamous Golden State Killer had been identified after a relative uploaded their DNA to an ancestry website.

Investigators had a clean DNA sample from Moore’s killer so Alberti decided to see whether there would be a possible match sitting in a database.

Speaking to The Denver Channel, the detective described the decision as a ‘no brainer’.

“We had no choice but to try to get in on it and see if we can use this technology to our benefit,” Alberti said.

Alberti sent the killer’s semen sample to the United Data Connect who then uploaded it to Family Tree DNA.

They got a hit.

Someone closely related to the suspect had also put their results on the database after they had taken a genealogy test.

The Family Tree DNA returned a list of the top 25 matches and detectives worked backwards to find a match.

This eventually led them to Donald Steven Perea, who had died in May 2012, aged 54, from health issues.

Donald Steven Perea was named as Jeannie Moore's killer. Image: Jefferson County Sheriff.
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Thankfully, his biological daughter was able to provide a DNA sample that proved Perea was 3.3 trillion times more likely to have killed Moore than anyone else.

At the time of the murder, Perea, then 23, had been out on bond after committing another violent rape. He was later jailed for the first rape and was in prison between 1982 and 1985.

After he was released from prison, his criminal offending was relatively low level: traffic offences and misdemeanor assault cases.

Speaking to the Denver Channel, Aberti said: "I was blown away at how fast it went. How quick from start to finish. And that’s mind-boggling when you think about a case that’s been sitting here for 38 years, and literally in weeks we were able to put closure to it."

At a press conference, Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader said: "While her family is pleased the suspect has been identified, they’re still struggling with the memories and pain this discovery has brought back.

We would have preferred to place handcuffs on the suspect but we hope knowing who and where he is brings them some degree of closure.”

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