BOULDER, Colo. – More than 10 years after a University of Colorado senior was raped and beaten to death, police think they've cracked the once-cold case.
Police armed with DNA evidence on Sunday announced the arrest of a suspect in the murder of Susannah Chase, who was found bleeding in an alley in December 1997.
Detective Chuck Heidel, who had worked the case from the start, broke the news to Chase's mother Friday. "She is extremely happy, she and her family," Heidel said.
The suspect, Diego Olmos-Alcalde, 38, was being held on $5 million bail on charges of first-degree murder, second-degree kidnapping and first-degree sex assault.
"The department is ecstatic over this," Police Chief Mark Beckner said.
Police learned Thursday that DNA from the case matched a profile entered by authorities in Wyoming, where Olmos-Alcalde had served time for a kidnapping in 2000, Beckner said. He allegedly broke his parole in October.
An arrest warrant was issued after he failed to report to a Wyoming parole officer, Beckner said. Working on information that the suspect had family in the Denver area, police arrested him Saturday at his mother's home in Aurora on the parole violation. While in jail, he was arrested for the Chase murder.
"As you might imagine our emotions have run the gamut since we first heard of the DNA match with Susannah's case," parents Hal and Julie Chase said in a written statement. "We are delighted that a suspect has been identified and apprehended."
Susannah Chase, a 23-year-old from Stamford, Conn., was walking home alone early Dec. 21, 1997, after an argument with her boyfriend when someone beat her with a baseball bat and left her for dead in an alley a block from her home. She later died from her injuries.
Police have said they believe the attack was random. In recent years, as forensic science was enhanced, detectives focused on DNA found in seminal fluid in Chase's body.
Melinda Brazzale, of the Wyoming Department of Corrections, said she did not know when Olmos-Alcalde's DNA was taken. He had been sentenced on charges involving kidnapping and terrorizing, and was allowed to serve at least part of the sentence in Colorado, she said.
Olmos-Alcalde had not previously come up as a possible suspect, Beckner said. He said the DNA was a key piece of evidence leading to the arrest but that investigators used other information, which he declined to disclose.
Boulder County Jail officials did not make Olmos-Alcalde available for comment by telephone. A jail official did not know whether he had an attorney, and the prosecutor's office was closed Sunday.
Police planned to file their arrest warrant affidavit Monday.
Heidel said Chase's parents have been supportive throughout. "Because the investigation went down a lot of blind alleys, leading to a lot of dead ends, they went down those with us," said Heidel.
Ron Stump, university vice chancellor for student affairs, said he hoped the arrest would lead to closure in the death of Chase.
"As promised at her memorial, we will continue at CU-Boulder to build, in her memory, a community that strives to eliminate violence in all its forms, but particularly violence against women," he said.