Police: DNA, genealogy tests linked suspect to 1992 killing

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Investigators used DNA and genealogy tests to identify a suspect in a 28-year-old deadly robbery in Maryland, a man who was shot and killed when law-enforcement officers tried to arrest him in Virginia last week.

Hans Huitz, a 51-year-old auto mechanic who had no apparent criminal history, was wanted on warrants charging him with first-degree murder and robbery in the March 1992 killing of James Essel, the 57-year-old owner of Sugarloaf Mountain Market in Comus, Maryland. Recent tests showed Huitz was the source of a blood trail found at the market where Essel was robbed and stabbed 29 times, according to police.

Police detectives from Montgomery County in Maryland and members of the U.S. Marshals task force stopped Huitz’s car early Wednesday near his home in Virginia Beach. At least one of the officers shot Huitz when he pulled out a gun, authorities said.

“We figured out the ‘who’ in this case,” Montgomery County Police Sgt. Chris Homrock told the Washington Post. “But clearly, based on his decisions yesterday, we will never know the ‘why.’”

One of Huitz’s neighbors told The Virginian-Pilot said the man was friendly and had helped neighbors with car repairs.

“It’s just such shocking news,” said the neighbor, Hershel Mack.

Homrock said Essel’s killing is the fifth cold case that the Maryland police department has closed using genetic genealogy testing. On Tuesday, detectives visited Huitz where he worked and swabbed his cheek to collect the DNA evidence that allegedly linked him to the blood trail.

“It’s definitely a worthwhile tool,” said Homrock, who heads the department’s cold case unit.