Cigarette butt used to identify suspect in 26-year Washington cold case

Detectives determined that Patricia Barnes, 61, had been shot twice in the head in August 1995

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Washington state authorities have identified a suspect in a 26-year cold case, thanks to DNA on a cigarette butt.

A passerby identified Patricia Barnes' abandoned body on the side of Peacock Hill Road in South Kitsap County, Washington, 26 years ago in August 1995. Detectives with the Kitsap County Sheriff's Office (KCSO) this week identified Barnes' suspected killer as Douglas Keith Krohne.

"The linchpin for the evidence was a cigarette butt that was found at the body dump location," KCSO Lead Detective Mike Grant said during a Wednesday press conference, according to FOX 13 Seattle. "The evidence on the body could mean one of two-three different things, but when you have a cigarette butt with the DNA and the DNA on her body and on items around her body, it was conclusive to me that we had the right guy."

Patricia Barnes. (Credit: Kitsap County Sheriff)

Patricia Barnes. (Credit: Kitsap County Sheriff)

On Aug. 25, 1995, authorities responded to reports of an unclothed and partially covered body discovered along Peacock Hill Road and later identified the body as that of Barnes, who was 61 at the time of her death. Detectives also determined that she had been shot twice in the head.

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Investigators worked on the case for months and released a composite drawing of the suspect but were unable to identify him at the time.

The case went cold until 2018, when KSCO detectives reopened an investigation into Barnes' death "as a part of a renewed focus on working ‘cold cases,'" the sheriff's office said in a Friday Facebook post. In the four years since reopening the case, detectives re-examined evidence and interviewed authorities involved in the initial crime scene investigation in 1995.

Suspect composite drawing from 1995. (Credit: Kitsap County Sheriff)

Suspect composite drawing from 1995. (Credit: Kitsap County Sheriff)

Othram Labs executed a forensic analysis of materials in the case, including the cigarette butt, and eventually provided Krohne's name to detectives. Authorities then followed up with two police departments in Arizona, as Krohne died in Nogales in 2016, according to Othram Director of Case Management Michael Ovgen. 

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A DNA sample from an autopsy examination of Krohne conducted by the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office in Arizona linked KSCO's DNA profile with Krohne's identity. 

Krohne was 33 at the time of Barnes' murder and had addresses in both Seattle and Tacoma, Washington. He also had five previous felony convictions, including first-degree robbery in 1984.

Douglas Keith Krohne. (Credit: Kitsap County Sheriff)

Douglas Keith Krohne. (Credit: Kitsap County Sheriff)

"The ultimately successful conclusion of this ‘cold case' investigation belongs to the initial investigative response by the [d]etectives in 1995," Grant said in a statement published to KSCO's Facebook page. "The success of modern investigative methods can only happen when built upon a thorough and professional foundation of good police work."

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Detectives who were part of the initial investigation have since retired. 

Grant reached out to Barnes' family to tell them of KSCO's findings and described their reactions as "shocked" and grateful that the case has come to a conclusion.