Suspect in cold-blooded killing of arrested Point Loma sailor in Tennessee; authorities credit DNA, genealogy

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More than 32 years after a Navy sailor was stabbed to death outside his Point Loma rental home, cold case investigators on Wednesday arrested a suspect they identified through forensic genealogy , authorities said.

San Diego homicide detectives and FBI agents arrested Brian Scott Koehl, 51, in Knoxville, Tennessee, on suspicion of murdering Navy noncommissioned officer Larry Joe Breen in 1990, according to the district attorney’s office. San Diego County.

Breen, who at the time was a cook aboard the USS Fox guided-missile cruiser, was stabbed multiple times in the neck, according to the district attorney’s office. A couple looking for a home found their naked bodies slumped against their backyard fence in a pool of blood, according to a story from the time in The San Diego Union.

The investigation into Breen’s murder remained unsolved for more than three decades until investigators shed new light on the case using genetic genealogy – a method by which expert forensic genealogists try to match DNA from a crime scene to relatives who have uploaded their DNA to public databases.

A hit in the publicly available database—a third cousin will do—helps genealogists generate family trees in hopes of putting a name to mysterious crime scene DNA. The investigative technique gained notoriety in 2018 when it was used to catch the Golden State Killer.

Koehl, who would have been 18 or 19 at the time of the murder, is scheduled to appear in Superior Court in Knox County, Tennessee, on Thursday. He will eventually be “extradited to San Diego where he has been charged with murder,” District Attorney Summer Stephan’s office said in a statement.

A team from Stephan’s office known as the Cold Homicide and Research Genealogy Effort, or CHARGE, helped lead the new investigation into Breen’s death, which was initially investigated by the police department of San Diego and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.

According to The San Diego Union story, the couple looking for a house to rent found Breen around 11:45 a.m. on May 25, 1990, sitting but slumped in the corner of a fence in front of a house on Nimitz Boulevard and Locust Street. . Officers who arrived saw blood splattered in the living room of Breen’s home and a shattered window where it looked like he had left the house as he was injured.

A story in The San Diego Union from May 26, 1990 explains how Larry Joe Breen was found dead a day earlier in Point Loma.

(The San Diego Union)

Breen had been stabbed multiple times in the neck and his car was missing, the district attorney’s office said. The vehicle was later found abandoned more than a mile from the crime scene.

Stephan said in a statement that Koehl’s arrest “is a tribute to the commitment and dedication of our Cold Case Homicide Unit investigators and prosecutors” and thanked several law enforcement agencies for their cooperation, including the San Diego Police, NCIS, FBI, and Knox. County Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney General’s Office.

Researcher Merrie Monteagudo contributed to this story.

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