Cleveland man arrested in cold case murder of girl, 17, nearly 33 years ago

An Ohio’s 17-year-old girl’s rape and murder cold case  has been solved after nearly 33 years using DNA and genetic genealogy, authorities said.

Barbara Blatnik’s killer strangled her and dumped her nude body near an access road in Cuyahoga Falls in December 1987.

James Zastawnik, 67, of Cleveland, was charged with murder in her death this week, according to reports Thursday.

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“I am incredibly proud of the work that our Cuyahoga Falls Police Department has done to help ensure that Barbara Blatnik’s family can finally find the closure that they deserve,” Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters said according to Fox 8 Cleveland.

DNA found under Barbara’s fingernails was uploaded to a public genealogy website by forensic genealogist Colleen Fitzpatrick.

Cuyahoga Falls Police arrested James Zastawnik, 67, in cold case murder of 17-year-old Barbara Blatnik in December 1987.

Cuyahoga Falls Police arrested James Zastawnik, 67, in cold case murder of 17-year-old Barbara Blatnik in December 1987. (Cuyahoga Falls Police Department)

This case is a landmark as the first-known crime solved using genetic genealogy based on a DNA mixture of the victim and her assailant, she said in a news release.

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An Ohio nonprofit Project Porchlight founded by author James Renner raised $6,000 to fund Fitzpatrick’s research, the Akron Beacon Journal reported.

“In 1987 this man was working in a factory on Warner Road in Garfield Heights and the last place that Barbara Blatnik was seen was the corner of Warner and Grand Division Road in Garfield Heights,” Renner told Fox 8. “I think you could probably see the factory from where she disappeared.”

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A judge order Zastawnik held on $1 million bail Thursday, according to the station.