DNA identifies suspect in murder 34 years ago

A criminal complaint spells out how the onset of DNA technology allowed investigators to use old evidence to identify and charge 62-year-old Darrell Bruce Rea in the murder of a teen back in April of 1983. (Photo: Hennepin County Jail)
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MINNEAPOLIS (KARE 11) Charges have been filed in the murder of a teenage girl that took place 34 years ago.

A criminal complaint spells out the case against 62-year-old Darrell Bruce Rea, who was identified as the killer of 17-year-old Lorri Mesedahl. It details how the onset of DNA technology allowed investigators to use old evidence to identify and charge Rea as the teen's killer.

Minneapolis Police and friends of Mesedahl will hold a news conference at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. KARE 11 plans to stream it live.

It was April 2, 1983 when a Soo Line Railroad crew called Minneapolis Police to report a body found near the railroad tracks near 28th Avenue North in north Minneapolis. Responding officers located the teen, later identified as Mesedahl, laying between two sets of tracks. She had been brutally beaten and raped, and drag marks indicated that her body had been moved there from where the crime actually took place.

An autopsy noted abrasions and internal hemmorhaging on the victim's neck, suggesting she had been strangled. There were also deep lacerations on her forehead, in and around her right eye, and a significant wound to her chest. Semen was present, confirming the victim was raped.

During the investigation that followed detectives learned that Mesedahl had returned home from a party around 2:30 that morning, but had snuck back out again and made her way to a home near 32nd and Bryant where a friend was staying with her grandmother. Police say Mesedahl knocked on the door and asked to come in and warm up, but her friend's grandmother turned her away. It was the last time Lorri Mesedahl would be seen alive.

Swabs of semen recovered from Mesedahl's body were tested in 2013 as part of a major effort to solve cold cases, and the DNA matched a profile in Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) computers that matched Darrell Rea. The suspect's DNA also matched samples recovered from the teen's pants and underwear.

Although Rea's criminal record to this point has been relatively minor, police have long believed he was responsible for an extensive number of crimes including sexual and physical assault, murder and missing persons cases. In one particular case from 1988 a woman engaging in prostitution entered a car in north Minneapolis and was strangled, assaulted with a blunt force object and sexually assaulted. The victim managed to escape, and provided DNA samples that were linked to Rea in 1993. Unfortunately he could not be charged by that time as the statute of limitations for those crimes had expired.

When arrested and questioned Darrell Rea denied knowing the victim or committing the crime. He is expected in court on Friday.

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