Cold Case Killing of Colorado 14-Year-Old Slain While Babysitting Solved After Nearly 50 Years

The nearly 50-year-old cold case killing of a young girl found brutally slain in a Colorado home where she was babysitting has been solved, authorities announced.

Maria Honzell, 14, was found dead on the floor in a Colorado Springs home where she was babysitting two of her neighbor’s kids at 11:21 p.m. on Feb. 7, 1977. The teen had suffered multiple stab wounds to her chest and neck, officials said. 

Honzell was first discovered by the adult neighbors whose children she was babysitting when they returned home and they called police, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation said in a statement obtained by Inside Edition Digital.

The children were safely asleep in their beds when Honzell’s body was found, authorities said.

Who killed Honzell and why remained a mystery until 2019, when investigators began working with Parabon NanoLabs, which could conduct genetic genealogy DNA analysis involving public commercial DNA databases.

A male DNA profile was developed from a bloodstain on Maria Honzell’s clothing, but no match was found for the DNA despite obtaining and submitting samples from various potential suspects. 

“Parabon submitted the genetic data profile created from the unknown crime scene DNA sample collected from the jumpsuit to a public genetic genealogy database for comparison in hopes of finding individuals who share significant amounts of DNA with the unknown subject,” the Colorado Springs Police Department said in a statement. “These genetic matches served as clues to inform traditional genealogy research: first, family trees of the matches were constructed back to the set of possible common ancestors using online genealogy databases, newspaper archives, public family trees, obituaries, and other public records, after which descendance research was employed to enumerate the possible identities of the unknown subject.

“Through extensive research, a person of interest was identified as William Charles Kernan, Jr., who also went by Bill Kernan,” the statement continued. 

Kernan, who died in 2010, was a student at a local college and an acquaintance of Honzell, police said. Kernan had been to the apartment complex where Honzell and her neighbors whose children she was watching lived on prior occasions, investigators discovered.

Authorities were unable to obtain DNA from Kernan, because he had been cremated, nor could they obtain DNA from family because he had no living biological relatives. But the genetic genealogy results that were developed were strong enough that “the District Attorney’s Office is confident the person responsible for the murder of Maria Honzell is William C. Kernan, Jr.,” the CSPD said. 

“The family and friends of Maria Honzell have waited over 47 years to get justice for Maria,” police said in the release. “Through years of analysis and investigation, CSPD is proud to finally provide answers to Maria’s loved ones.”

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