Cold Murder Case Dating Back to 1978 Solved by DNA

The killer of 16-year-old Krisann Baxter has been unmasked after nearly 45 years.

Verity Partington
3 min readSep 11


Krisann Baxter, murdered in 1978 (Image: Spokane County Shetiff’s Office)

Authorities in Washington’s Spokane County have announced they have identified the killer of a 16-year-old girl in a brutal murder and sexual assault that took place nearly 45 years ago.

Krisann Baxter was a student at the then-Joseph Jantsch High School in September 1978, but she had run away from home for unspecified reasons and had been reported missing by her mother on the 30th of that month.

However, her story was to have a tragic end. On October 4th 1978, two utility workers discovered a partially-clad female body lying in the shade of a clump of pine trees half a mile north of Hawthorn Road near Whitworth University.

The remains were identified as being those of Krisann, and she had suffered a brutal death. According to the county coroner at the time, she had trauma to her lungs and liver and extensive bruising. The teenager had also been sexually assaulted during the attack.

Crime scene technicians collected all they could from the site where the body was found, but there was little that could be done with the evidence at the time. And although detectives assigned to the case followed all the clues they could, leads quickly dried up.

“Do cases get any tougher than this one? Not a hell of a lot,” the Spokane County Sheriff’s Lt. Robert Sennette told the Spokesman-Review about a month after the murder.

However, Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory kept hold of the samples they had been sent from Krisann’s crime scene and made periodic attempts to analyse them again over the years as forensic technology improved.

A review in 2006 got as far as isolating the DNA of an unknown male from the victim’s, but hopes were dashed when there turned out to be no match to it in CODIS.

Once again Krisann’s case was shelved — but then genetic genealogy became a possibility for forensic experts. The samples were once again sent off for analysis in 2020 and the long process of tracking down familial relatives began.



Verity Partington

A writer and author of crime thrillers living in the UK. Partial to books, stationery, papercrafts and walking. You can find her books on Amazon here: https://a