Defense attorney disputes evidence against Jerry Westrom

Jerry Arnold Westrom
Jerry Arnold Westrom
Courtesy of Hennepin County Sheriff's Office

The lawyer representing an Isanti man suspected in a 1993 homicide says the evidence against his client is thin.

Jerry Westrom, 52, is charged with second-degree murder in the stabbing death of Jeanne Ann Childs, 35, in an apartment on Pillsbury Avenue South in Minneapolis.

Westrom appeared in court Friday for a brief hearing. Wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, he struggled to maintain his composure as he confirmed his name and address. More than two dozen of Westrom's friends and family members, including his wife and children, watched from the gallery.

Prosecutors allege Westrom's DNA was found in evidence collected from the crime scene. According to the criminal complaint, investigators sent those samples to a genealogy website in 2018, which helped them identify Westrom as a suspect. Authorities say the crime scene DNA also matched samples taken from a napkin that Westrom discarded at a hockey game earlier this year and a sample taken from Westrom after his arrest.

But in court, defense attorney Steven Meshbesher immediately raised doubts about the evidence. He noted that Childs, according to the criminal complaint, had worked as a prostitute, and that DNA collected at the crime scene came from sperm.

"The sperm shows up allegedly matching, but not the blood," Meshbesher said. "What we've got is not any record of violence, not connecting it to the blood, not to the weapon — because they didn't find it."

In the complaint, prosecutors allege Westrom's DNA is present in two sperm samples taken from a comforter and a towel at the apartment. They also claim it was present in two other "non-sperm cell fraction" samples taken from the towel and comforter.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Meshbesher also noted that the Hennepin County Attorney's office admits in its complaint that the case is still under investigation.

"They don't know what the facts are. You don't charge a case before you know what the facts are. You need to do the investigation first," Meshbesher said.

After he was told of his rights, Westrom "denied having been at the apartment complex, denied having been in the apartment, denied recognizing" Childs, according to the complaint. Meshbesher disputed that account Friday.

Meshbesher said Westrom intends to plead not guilty. Judge Martha Anne Holton Dimick set bail at $500,000 with conditions, and scheduled Westrom's next hearing for March 13.