A Hennepin County Grand Jury has issued two first-degree murder indictments in a double homicide committed in northeast Minneapolis more than 15 years ago.
According to the indictments, Jason Richard Preston, 35, killed Carrie Richter, 18, and her boyfriend, Dustin Baity, 20. They were strangled and stabbed in their apartment on Christmas Eve, 1998.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman credited the determination of Minneapolis homicide investigators and improvements in DNA technology for helping to identify Preston.
"This cold-hit case was thoroughly investigated by Minneapolis Police in 1998 and 1999, but there was insufficient evidence to charge," Freeman said. "But, homicides are never over. And DNA is the great tool of investigators and prosecutors."
Preston is serving time in a California prison for home invasion and is schedule to be released in 2038. He will face the murder charges after he completes his sentence, Freeman said. Relatives of the couple say they're thankful the man suspected of committing the murders has been identified and charged.
Dawn Baity said she's struggled over the years to maintain hope that her brother's killer would ever be found.
"I think you kind of get yourself to a place where you still always have hope, but you know that you have to be OK," she said. "I have kids. Everybody else has a life. But I always had hope that something would happen."
Freeman singled out Minneapolis police homicide investigator Chris Karakostas for his "dogged determination" in the case.
Karakostas, who was a patrol officer in 1998, responded to the scene of the homicide. Years later, he became a homicide investigator, and in 2007 was assigned to the same case after it went cold. Karakostas said he repeatedly sent DNA samples to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension over the years for testing in hopes of finding a match.
"And then technology changes," Karakostas said. "So things that you didn't think could be tested before, now can be tested. And then you reassess. You go back, you take a look at everything that was in there, maybe you missed something. Maybe something can be tested now, that couldn't be tested before. And then you bring it back over there."
Karakostas is still looking for witnesses to come forward with more information on the case.