GALT — A suspect in the 1988 sexual assault and murder of a 79-year-old woman in a small northern California community has been identified thanks to advanced DNA testing performed on scrapings from the victim’s fingernails, officials said Tuesday.
Galt Police Chief Brian Kalinowski said Terry Leroy Bramble was 32 when he sexually assaulted, stabbed and strangled her inside Lucille Hultgren’s home.
Kalinowski said Bramble was homeless and a registered sex offender when he died of natural causes while living under a bridge on Highway 99 in Galt in 2011.
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said Bramble’s DNA, collected during a 1992 sexual assault conviction in San Joaquin County, matched DNA found in fingernail scrapings collected from Holtgren’s body, leading to Detectives help solve a 34-year-old cold case.
“Scraping the nails became the key to solving this matter,” she said.
Schubert said that DNA testing has advanced so much that very small amounts of genetic material are needed to obtain a DNA profile.
In the past, a DNA sample had to be the size of a quarter to be able to obtain a profile, but “now it is less than a billionth of the size of a Sweet’n Low package,” Schubert said. .
Kalinowski said that on May 23, 1988, two friends who went to Holtgren’s home to check on her when she hadn’t been to church the day before, found her dead in their bedroom and called the police.
Kalinowski said Hultgren, a mother of two adult children, lived alone after her husband’s death last year.
The coroner at the time said that Holtgren had died two to five days before his body was discovered and that the cause of death was chest wounds and strangulation, Kalinowski said.
Officials said Hultgren’s murder was the only cold case in the city of 25,000 people 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Sacramento.
Officials said the motive for Hultgren’s murder is still unknown.