VANCOUVER, Wash. — An Oregon man has been arrested on suspicion of murder with sexual motivation in the death of a Vancouver woman found strangled in her bed nearly 25 years ago. Investigators used DNA evidence to link him to the victim, authorities said Tuesday.
Richard Eugene Knapp was arrested near his home in Fairview, Oregon, and booked into Washington’s Clark County Jail, The Columbian reported. It wasn’t immediately known whether he had a lawyer.
Audrey Hoellein, who was then 26 and also known as Audrey Frasier, was found strangled at the Family Tree Apartments in Vancouver on July 17, 1994, where she lived with her 5-year-old son, according to newspaper archives.
Officers who responded to her apartment that night collected DNA evidence, which didn’t match any of their initial suspects at the time, according to a probable cause affidavit filed in Clark County Superior Court.
Persons of interests were compared against the DNA profile over the years without a match, and a profile sent to a national database also did not return a hit, the affidavit said.
The DNA profile and the use of genealogy databases eventually led investigators to Knapp, who lived in Clark County around the time of the woman’s killing, Vancouver police said.
Knapp, now 57, had been convicted of sexual assault in Clark County in 1986, and he strangled the victim in that case, according to the affidavit. He complied with an order then to provide a biological sample to authorities, but the sample was never uploaded to any database and was destroyed in 2000, according to the affidavit.
Law enforcement started surveilling Knapp at his home and place of employment in the past year in hopes of obtaining a discarded item to get his DNA for comparison, according to the affidavit. Authorities eventually obtained a cigarette butt belonging to Knapp, and his DNA matched the original profile, Vancouver police said at a Tuesday news conference.
The Hoellein family said in a statement that the crime took away a sister from her two brothers and a daughter from her parents, and left a young child without a mother.
“As this case is starting to unfold after almost 25 years, the wound is being re-opened, and our family is experiencing the pain all over again,” the statement said. “But thanks to detectives Dustin Goudschaal and Neil Martin, our family may finally have the opportunity to find closure to our biggest unknown.”