On March 26, 1986, Michella Welch was abducted from a vast, thickly-forested park in Tacoma, Washington.
The 12-year-old girl had been playing in Point Defiance Park with her two young sisters at the time of her disappearance.
After an extensive search of the area, a police dog located her body in a ravine later that night.
She had been sexually assaulted and then killed with a knife.
Despite finding her remains within hours of her disappearance, and the gathering of crucial evidence at the crime scene, the case quickly turned cold.
Now, 32 years later, police have arrested a suspect. Gary Hartman, 66, will face court on Monday, charged with the rape and murder of the Tacoma preteen.
Hartman’s arrest has been three decades in the making.
As Sky News reports, in 2006 police scientists were able reconstruct a DNA imprint from the items collected at the crime scene.
Unfortunately, at the time, the reconstructed DNA could not be linked to any known criminal in the United States.
This year, with improvements in genetic genealogy, police were able to track down the killer.
Th technology, and its massive databases and archives, led police to two brothers who had lived in the area at the time of Michella’s murder.
The brothers were placed under surveillance. An undercover investigator sat at the next table as one of the brothers, Gary Hartman, ate dinner at a restaurant one night.
When Hartman left, the investigator swooped in and grabbed his used napkin.
The team then analysed the DNA on the napkin and it was match for the DNA left at the crime scene 32 years ago.