Las Vegas Cold Case Homicide Solved: DNA Reveals Killer's Identity

Introduction In a breakthrough that offers closure for a decades-old unsolved homicide, Las Vegas police have finally identified the killer of Sherrie Bridgewater. Thanks to advancements in DNA technology, detectives were able to unravel the...

Introduction

In a breakthrough that offers closure for a decades-old unsolved homicide, Las Vegas police have finally identified the killer of Sherrie Bridgewater. Thanks to advancements in DNA technology, detectives were able to unravel the mystery surrounding Bridgewater's tragic death and connect it to another cold case in Colorado. Let's delve into the details of this remarkable investigation and the long-awaited justice it has brought.

Sherrie Bridgewater was murdered in a Las Vegas apartment in 1991. Sherrie Bridgewater was murdered in a Las Vegas apartment in 1991. (LVMPD)

The Unsolved Murder

In May 1991, the lifeless body of Sherrie Bridgewater was discovered in a Las Vegas apartment. She was only 30 years old when she was brutally sexually assaulted and strangled to death. Despite determined efforts, the case remained a haunting cold case for over three decades.

DNA Breakthrough

In 2013, a ray of hope emerged as technological advancements enabled detectives to reexamine the sexual assault kit from Bridgewater's case for DNA evidence. This crucial step led to the development of a suspect profile. The breakthrough came when the profile was submitted to CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) and revealed a connection to another unsolved murder.

A Second Cold Case Unveiled

The hit from CODIS led Las Vegas police to a chilling discovery. Their suspect was linked to the 1975 murder of Teree Becker in Westminster, Colorado. Becker, a young woman of only 20, suffered a similar fate to Bridgewater—she was sexually assaulted and strangled. The two cases were connected by a single perpetrator.

Teree Becker was sexually assaulted and killed in December 1975 in Colorado. Teree Becker was sexually assaulted and killed in December 1975 in Colorado. (LVMPD)

Joint Efforts and a Decade-Long Search

Las Vegas and Westminster police agencies collaborated closely and decided to explore forensic genealogy possibilities. They sought the assistance of Parabon Nanolabs and Solves by DNA in Denver, Colorado. Finally, after a painstaking ten years, the suspect was identified as Thomas Martin Elliott.

Thomas Martin Elliott is accused of sexually assaulting and killing two women over the course of 16 years. Thomas Martin Elliott is accused of sexually assaulting and killing two women over the course of 16 years. (LVMPD)

Connecting the Dots

Las Vegas police were able to establish Elliott's presence in both Colorado and Las Vegas during the times of the two murders. In 1981, Elliott was arrested in Colorado for burglary and subsequently served his term. Following his release in 1991, he committed another heinous crime—a sexual assault on a 13-year-old girl. It was shortly after this that he took Bridgewater's life.

Confirmation Through DNA

Although Elliott passed away in November 1991 from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, confirming his identity as the killer required exhuming his body in October 2023. The collection of DNA samples from his tissue and bones conclusively matched both homicides.

Police exhume Thomas Martin Elliott’s body for DNA testing. Police exhume Thomas Martin Elliott’s body for DNA testing. (LVMPD)

Long-Awaited Justice

"This is one of those cases that would not be solved with any other technology at the time that were available to detectives," shared LVMPD Lt. Jason Johansson. The identification of Elliott may have come too late for Bridgewater's parents, who passed away before having closure, but it has provided some solace to her adult sons.

Conclusion

The resolution of this long-standing cold case serves as a testament to the relentless pursuit of justice and the transformative power of DNA technology. Detectives can now bring closure to the families of Sherrie Bridgewater and Teree Becker, ensuring that their loved ones are no longer forgotten.

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