TOWSON, Md. (AP) — Baltimore County police say they’ve solved a 40-year-old homicide of a teenage girl.
DNA evidence has proven that John Anthony Petrecca Jr. killed Heather Porter, a 13-year-old girl whose body was found in a wooded area of Towson in September 1981, the police department said in a news release Wednesday. Petrecca has since died.
Porter’s body was discovered the day after she went missing from her Halethorpe neighborhood, according to police. An autopsy determined she was strangled and sexually assaulted.
County detectives reviewed the case last year and requested that the suspect’s DNA profile be submitted for forensic genealogy. A private laboratory analyzed the sample and forwarded the results to the FBI for further evaluation.
Results received in February pointed to Petrecca as a potential suspect. His criminal history showed arrests for rape in the 1960s and ’70s, according to the release. Detectives determined that, at the time of the killing, he lived a short distance away from where Porter was last seen.
The department got permission to exhume Petrecca’s remains from the cemetery where he was buried in 2000. A DNA sample was collected in March and sent to the lab where Porter’s was examined.
Police said detectives learned Nov. 12 that the DNA from Petrecca matched that of the suspect’s profile.
Sue Yutzy, Porter’s childhood friend who said she was the last person to see her before she disappeared, told The Baltimore Sun on Wednesday that her stomach “has been in absolute knots” since police told her weeks ago that a suspect was identified.
The 55-year-old said she had been calling the department for years to keep pressure on the detectives to solve the case.