Man arrested in 26-year-old murder case is released after posting bail

A dirty napkin at hockey game connects a businessman to Minneapolis cold case murder

Edgar Linares
February 14, 2019 - 5:18 pm

Courtesy of Hennepin County

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Hennepin County Attorney, Mike Freeman called the 1993 murder of Jeanie Childs a “brutal killing.” Now, Jerry Arnold Westrom, 52, of Isanti County is charged with second-degree murder for Childs’ death.

He was arrested in Waite Park earlier this week and is a well-known businessman, a husband and a father.

“This case was broken because of DNA, including using a genealogist and a private company so we could match up a submission that led us to Mr. Westrom,” said Freeman.

Westrom was released from custody Friday night after posting bail.

His attorney calls evidence in the case "thin," and that prosecutors moved too fast to file charges.

Westrom denies the allegations. His wife and three children attended Westrom's first court appearance on Friday.

On June 23, 1993, property managers at a complex on the 3100 block of Pillsbury Avenue South reported water leaking into a unit. Property managers said it was coming from an apartment rented by Childs’ boyfriend, which Childs used to meet clients for prostitution. After a superintendent entered the apartment, they discovered the shower running and Childs’ body stabbed to death.

“A number of stab wounds were apparent to J.C.’s body. J.C. was brought to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office. The evaluation located 17 superficial cuts to J.C.’s abdomen, as well as one large cut that exposed her intestines,” described the Criminal Complaint.

RELATED: Genealogy testing helps MPD nab a 1993 cold case murder suspect

DNA from blood and semen were left at the scene but technology to trace the DNA had not been invented, until now. In 2018, investigators with the Minneapolis Police Department consulted with a genealogist who entered the unknown DNA into a commercial genealogy websites that led to two possible suspects, one them was Jerry Westrom. Westrom had lived in the Twin Cities from April 1991 to December 1993 and records showed he had been convicted in 2016 for solicitation of a prostitute.

In January 2019, officers began to monitor Westrom and tracked him to a hockey game where he ordered food and then used a napkin to wipe his mouth. He tossed the napkin into a trash can where officers snagged it. The BCA determine the DNA from the napkin was consistent with DNA recovered from the crime scene.

“When confronted and agreeing to talk with the police he denied ever having been at the apartment, knowing this person, ever having sex with any woman in Minneapolis in 1993,” said Freeman.

Westrom told investigators he had no idea how his DNA ended up at the crime scene.

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