SALISBURY, N.C. (AP) — The stabbing death of a teenager 35 years ago has been solved, police in a North Carolina city said, finally vindicating the victim’s family members.
“I just want to say how thrilled me and my family are,” said Jodie Laird, the sister of Reesa Dawn Trexler. “It’s been a long road, something that honestly for many, many years we didn’t think would happen.”
The 15-year-old Trexler’s body was found on the floor of a bedroom in her grandparents’ house in June 1984. She had been stabbed several times in the upper chest and neck. An autopsy showed the blade of a knife had broken off and was found in her right shoulder.
Police didn’t release the name of the suspect. But several media outlets reported a search warrant showed DNA was extracted in June from the remains of a man whose body was exhumed from a Salisbury cemetery in June.
Media outlets identified him as Curtis Edward Blair, based on a petition for the exhumation.
Investigators received information that Blair had been employed by Frito-Lay in Salisbury, two blocks from the home of the victim’s grandparents.
Court records show Blair was living in San Diego, California, when he died in 2004, media outlets reported.
Police Sgt. Travis Shulenburger said at a news conference Tuesday that authorities consider the case closed. Laird “has been completely exonerated” and the suspect had no connection to the family, he said.
Laird appeared on “The Dr. Phil Show” in 2018 and passed a polygraph test, which renewed interest in the case. Laird said then that she had endured decades of gossip implicating her.
Months later, Shulenburger said he was sending evidence to be retested. Evidence included a DNA swab from a sexual assault kit, police said Tuesday. The lab developed a male DNA profile from there.
Based on genetic, genealogical and circumstantial evidence, Blair was a “very strong candidate to be the subject of the unidentified male extracted DNA profile,” court documents said.
Laird said she was grateful that the case has been solved, and that the family was cleared. “I think we can walk down the street and look at people a lot differently now, that makes a big difference,” she said.