Three Cold Cases Solved Thanks to DNA: The Jenny Zitricki Story || Dispatches from the Middle


Three murders and one rape case across three states went unsolved for nearly 30 years. That is, until a link between them was revealed. Genevieve “Jenny” Zitricki was 28 years old when she was murdered in her apartment in Greenville, South Carolina back in 1990. Her body was found in her bathtub, she’d been beaten and strangled to death. In the years that followed, the case went cold. It’s been 28 years since Jenny was taken from us. The intervening years have brought the painful sorrow of loss and the longing for what could have been. It wasn’t until the mid 2000s that investigators learned Jenny’s murder wasn’t an isolated incident. DNA evidence from Jenny’s case matched DNA found at the scene of a double homicide in Missouri. The victims were Sherri Scherer and her 12-year-old daughter Megan, who had been shot to death in their home 8 years after Jenny’s murder. We still don’t know why. And again, that’s a lead. If you know why then it’s pretty simple to find out who the suspect is, but we don’t have that. Just hours after Sherri and Megan were killed, a woman in Tennessee was shot by a man trying to break into her home. She fought him off and survived. The bullet she’d been shot with matched the bullets found at Sherri and Megan’s murder scene. The woman was able to describe her attacker to investigators. It was the strongest lead in both unsolved cases, but, unfortunately, it didn’t get them far. Who knows where this person is, I mean, are they in prison? In jail on unrelated crimes? Are they in a different state? Have they left the country? Are they even alive? I mean those are questions that we just don’t know. Then, in 2017, South Carolina authorities were again notified of another hit from the DNA evidence in Jenny’s case. The same man was responsible for a 1997 unsolved rape in Memphis, Tennessee, but once again, the information led nowhere. Right here. Two large cases of files. Numerous, numerous, hundreds of hundreds of hours that detectives have put into this case trying to resolve it. In 2018, investigators in all 3 states decided to work with Parabon NanoLabs and try a relatively new method of DNA analysis. Parabon takes crime scene DNA and compares it to genetic information in publicly available databases, looking for potential relatives and familial links to the killer. This same method was also used to solve the murder of a Pennsylvania school teacher that went unsolved for 26 years, which you may remember from our first episode. It’s not cheap, but you know, really do you cast a few thousand dollars against closure for a family who wants to know what happened to their family member 28 years ago? That’s a lifetime for Jenny. She was 28 when she was killed. You know, if it’s a few thousand dollars, if it’s $10,000 dollars it brings closure. Closure for a family. Closure for our detectives who pour their heart and soul into these cases. And closure to our community. Parabon managed to narrow it down to a single man: Robert Brashers. As it turns out, he was dead. He committed suicide in 1999, but that didn’t mean it was a dead end. Investigators exhumed his body and took a DNA sample for testing. Brashers was a match to the DNA in all 3 unsolved cases. It’s almost been time enough to give up hope. But the men and women of this outstanding organization, in concert with professionals from other far-flung jurisdictions never gave up. They never wavered. They never forgot their promise. Every victim’s important. So, you’re glad when you get closure on any of those cases, but this is heartfelt. All whose lives she touched, near and far, then and now, should keep her in their hearts,
not as she left, but as she lived. South Carolina reporter, Madeleine Hackett, who covered the break in the case of Jenny Zitricki, gave us some more insight into the incredible resolution. Probably the most alarming part about all of this was that this was premeditated in a way. This was not random. You know, and they mentioned- the detectives mentioned- Jenny having pool parties, going in and out of her apartment complex, and how Brashers some way, some how canvassed the area and knew her, knew what she was doing and planned this attack. For me as a woman, that’s frightening. Right. And it’s stories like this that might make people consider submitting their own DNA into one of these databases, in hopes of catching a criminal. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we hear about, you know, these genealogy sites and everything and, you know it can be used, obviously, to determine my ancestors, but little do people realize that it can ultimately solve and crack these cold cases and beyond that, provide closure for people like Phillip. You know, in those 28 years one of their parents had died. You know, so imagine dying and never knowing what happened to your daughter. Knowing what happened to her daughter, but not knowing who was behind this atrocious crime. Is it possible Brashers is responsible for other crimes that have gone unsolved, other than the ones police have mentioned already? There is a high likelihood. I mean, you hear about his criminal background. He was in and out of prison, which is also hard to wrap your mind around. The number of times he was arrested and how he was able to continuously get out of the prison system and evade law enforcement. Because again, this guy was on no one’s radar. No one’s radar. And hearing the detective talk about, you know, getting that call after 28 years of not knowing was pretty powerful. It’s one of those cases, I recall him saying, it’s one of those cases that you never let go of. You know, and here he is, finally having, as the detective, some closure in this awful crime. A really terrible case, but I’m so glad there’s closure for the many people involved. Thank you for talking with us, Madeleine, for sharing your reporting on this. What’s your reaction to the resolution of these cases? Give us your input in the comments. I’m Alexandra Stone and this has been your weekly dispatch. Thanks for watching. Subscribe to Stitch for new episodes of Dispatches from the Middle.

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