Mom came home to find babysitter dead 47 years ago, CO cops say. Now there’s a suspect

Nearly five decades after a teen babysitter was found stabbed to death, there is a suspect in her killing, Colorado police say.

DNA from a bloodstain on 14-year-old Maria Loraine Honzell’s blue jumpsuit helped investigators identify William Charles Kernan Jr., who died in 2010, as a suspect in her 1977 killing, the Colorado Springs Police Department said in a May 8 news release.

“The family and friends of Maria Honzell have waited over 47 years to get justice for Maria,” police said.

The evening of Feb. 7, 1977, Maria was babysitting for a neighbor in her apartment complex, police said.

When the mother arrived home shortly before 11:30 p.m., police said she found Maria dead in the primary bedroom.

The children, ages 6 and 8, were not harmed and were “sleeping in bed” when their mother came home, police said.

Officers arrived shortly after to find Maria dead “with multiple stab wounds to the chest and neck area,” according to police.

The county coroner ruled Maria’s death a homicide, police said.

Despite thorough investigation, which included reports, evidence and interviews, police said the case went cold.

With the advancement in DNA technology, police said they submitted several pieces of evidence to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for analysis, and a man’s DNA profile was created with a bloodstain from Maria’s clothing.

The profile, however, didn’t match any profiles in databases, including those in the Combined DNA Index System.

Then, in 2019, police said investigators turned their efforts to genetic genealogy.

Genetic genealogy uses DNA testing coupled with “traditional genealogical methods” to create “family history profiles,” according to the Library of Congress. With genealogical DNA testing, researchers can determine if and how people are biologically related.

“For forensic investigations, (genetic genealogy) is used to generate highly informative leads as to the possible identity of an unknown victim or offender,” police said.

After submitting blood from Maria’s blue jumpsuit to Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based genetic genealogy company, police said the organization created a “genetic data profile” for the unknown man.

The profile was then uploaded to public databases in hopes of finding someone who may share the man’s DNA, police said.

“Extensive research” led investigators to Kernan, police said.

Because Kernan was cremated and has no living relatives, police said they were unable to use DNA to confirm he was the man from Maria’s case.

Police, nonetheless, said they confirmed Kernan was “a student at a local college and an acquaintance of the woman Maria Honzell had been babysitting for on the night of her murder.”

Investigation also showed he had been at the apartment complex previously, according to police.

Detectives asked the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office to review the case using the genetic genealogy results that pointed to Kernan as a suspect, police said.

“After the review was completed, the District Attorney’s Office is confident the person responsible for the murder of Maria Honzell is William C. Kernan, Jr.,” police said.

Grandma’s ‘tragic killing’ went unsolved for 40 years — until now, Washington cops say

Remains found by hunter in remote area of Nevada ID’d 40 years later, officials say

Someone walked into sheriff’s office with skull in 2001, cops say. Now it’s identified