DNA technology links trio of unsolved Eugene murders to same unidentified suspect

The Eugene Police Department says new technology is being used in a 1986 murder investigation. (Snapshot image via Parabon)

EUGENE, Ore. -- The Eugene Police Department says new technology is being used in a 1986 murder investigation - and that DNA has linked three cold case homicides to the same unknown suspect.

On June 5, 1986, at approximately 2:42 p.m., Eugene Police and Eugene Fire Medics responded to an apartment at 255 High Street for a report of a deceased person, identified as 62-year-old Gladys May Hensley, who was located during a welfare check by an apartment employee after she had not been seen for several days.

The investigation revealed it was a murder and that she was likely killed in the early hours of June 4, 1986.

Police were not able to find the involved suspect, but similarities in the murder and evidence at the scene connect the suspect with two additional murders - one that occurred in the same month and the other in February, 1988.

In August 2000, additional DNA work requests resulted in Hensley's murder being connected to the June 19, 1986 murder of Janice Marie Dickinson, investigated by the Eugene Police Department, and the February 28, 1988 murder of Geraldine Spencer Toohey, investigated by the Oregon State Police.

Dickinson, a 33-year-old white female, was found murdered behind the car dealership at 20 Coburg Road in Eugene. She was naked and had been sexually assaulted, her death attributed to brutal homicidal violence, police said.

Toohey, a 73-year-old white female, was found in her residence in the 5400 block of Franklin Boulevard. Evidence of forced entry into the residence was discovered. Toohey had been sexually assaulted and her death was also attributed to brutal homicidal violence.

Eugene Police Department investigated eight murders in 1986, four of which occurred in a three-month period beginning with Hensley's murder. Several persons of interest were developed and thoroughly investigated over the years and have been excluded through DNA comparison.

All three cases have lacked any strong leads. In 2016, a new technology came to market from Parabon Nano Labs, allowing the inference of physical characteristics of individuals based on DNA information. This service, Snapshot Phenotyping, was employed in this case and, in September 2017, Eugene Police investigators received the results.

"Snapshot is a revolutionary new forensic DNA analysis service that accurately predicts the physical appearance and ancestry of an unknown person from DNA," Eugene Police said in a news release. "It can also determine kinship between DNA samples out to multiple degrees of relatedness. Snapshot is ideal for generating investigative leads, narrowing suspect lists, and solving human remains cases."

Starting with extracted DNA or biological evidence, Parabon can produce a detailed Snapshot report and composite sketch that includes eye color, skin color, hair color, face morphology, and detailed biogeographic ancestry.

Detectives hope the release of this new information will generate new leads in these cases, officials said.

The Eugene Police Department’s Violent Crimes Unit has established a dedicated tip line for these cases and is asking anyone with information about these murders to call the tip line at (541) 682.5162.

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