June 4, 2023

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A woman’s death remained a mystery for 46 years. Now DNA evidence from a coffee cup has led to an arrest

For 46 years, the identity of the person who killed Lindy Sue Biechler remained a mystery.

But with the help of DNA taken from a coffee cup in early 2022, investigators were able to charge a Pennsylvania man with the stabbing of the 19-year-old woman in 1975.

Biechler’s aunt and uncle found her dead in her apartment on Dec. 5, 1975, with 19 stab wounds, lying on her back with a knife sticking out of her throat and a napkin wrapped around the wooden handle, according to a press release from the Prosecutor’s Office Lancaster County.

The woman had just returned from grocery shopping, investigators said, and the bags were left on the dining room table, according to CNN.

Dozens of people have been pursued by police in Pennsylvania over the past five decades

Over the years, detectives from the Manor Township Police Department and the Pennsylvania State Police have conducted homicide investigations, tracking dozens of people, the DA’s office said. The evidence was sent to several laboratories and several interviews were conducted with the suspects.

Genetic genealogy analysis used DNA from the crime scene and ultimately identified David Sinopoli, 68, as the suspect, according to the DA’s office.

Lancaster County Prison

Sinopoli was arrested at his home Sunday, arraigned and is being held at Lancaster County Jail without bond, police said.

“Lancaster’s Oldest Murder Case”

“This arrest marks the beginning of a criminal trial in Lancaster County’s oldest homicide case and will hopefully bring some relief to the victim’s loved ones and community members who have gone unanswered for the past 46 years,” said Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams.

In 1997, the Lancaster District Attorney’s Office said it submitted evidence from the crime scene for DNA analysis and a male DNA profile was collected from Biechler’s underwear.

Three years later, the DNA profile was submitted to a national database, also known as CODIS, to see if there was a match to a known criminal. Typically, if a person is not a known felon, they are not in the CODIS system and therefore no match is presented, which was the case here, the DA’s office explained.

In January 2019, the investigation gained new momentum after it was taken over by the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit, which enlisted the help of Parabon NanoLabs months later to analyze DNA obtained in the case.

Sinopoli has been identified as a possible person of interest, CeCe Moore, a researcher at Parabon NanoLabs, said at a news conference Monday.

Because there were no individual genetic matches to the suspect’s DNA, Moore had to try a “new, non-traditional” path to find the prime suspect, she said.

How the researchers came to suspect Sinopoli

Given Sinopoli’s Italian ancestry, Moore studied geographic and immigration patterns, as well as associated surnames, and determined that the person linked to the DNA sample had ties to Gasperina, a town in the Calabria region of southern Italy.

“There were very few people living in Lancaster at the time of the murder who were of the right age, sex and family tree compatible with these origins, so this allowed me to prioritize candidates whose ancestry was determined to be exclusively from families with origins in Gasperina,” Moore said.

Sinopoli and Biechler lived in the same four-unit building at the apartment complex at one point, Adams said at a news conference Monday, but did not specify when. Other than being neighbors, Adams did not explain how the pair might have been related.

In February 2022, investigators obtained DNA from a cup of Sinopoli’s coffee

Investigators followed Sinopoli closely, and on February 11, “investigators surreptitiously obtained DNA from Sinopoli from a coffee cup he used and threw in a trash can before travel to Philadelphia International Airport,” the prosecutor said.

“There was an endless pursuit of justice in this case that led us to the identification and arrest of Sinopoli,” Adams said. “Lindy Sue Biechler has been on the minds of many over the years.”

“Law enforcement has certainly never forgotten Lindy Sue, and this arrest marks the first step toward getting justice for her and bringing her killer to justice,” Adams added.

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