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Las Vegas Cold Case Homicide Solved with DNA: A Decades-Long Mystery Unraveled

CEO Khai Intela
Sherrie Bridgewater was murdered in a Las Vegas apartment in 1991. (LVMPD) In a remarkable breakthrough, detectives have finally solved a cold case homicide that had baffled authorities for over three decades. Thanks to advancements...

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

In a remarkable breakthrough, detectives have finally solved a cold case homicide that had baffled authorities for over three decades. Thanks to advancements in DNA technology, the killer of Sherrie Bridgewater has been identified and brought to justice. This momentous discovery sheds new light on a tragic event that shocked the Las Vegas community and brings closure to her grieving family.

A Shocking Discovery

In May 1991, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department responded to a distressing scene in an apartment near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Owens Avenue. Bridgewater's lifeless body was discovered by her friend and relative, who immediately contacted the authorities. The 30-year-old victim had fallen victim to sexual assault and strangulation, leaving the police with an intricate puzzle that would remain unsolved for years to come.

Unveiling the Culprit

Advancements in DNA examination techniques created a breakthrough in 2013, when detectives were able to analyze a sexual assault kit from the case. This crucial evidence led them to develop a suspect profile. The profile was submitted to CODIS, the Combined DNA Index System, and a startling connection was made. Another unsolved murder in Westminster, Colorado, shared striking similarities with Bridgewater's case.

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)

The victim, Teree Becker, had been sexually assaulted and strangled in December 1975. However, despite extensive investigations, the identity of her killer remained a mystery. As both Las Vegas and Westminster authorities collaborated, they made a critical decision to explore forensic genealogy as a potential avenue for answers. In 2018, they turned to Parabon Nanolabs and Solves by DNA in Denver, Colorado, for assistance.

Identifying the Culprit

After years of determined efforts, the suspect was finally unmasked as Thomas Martin Elliott. Detectives were able to place Elliott in Colorado at the time of Becker's murder and in Las Vegas when Bridgewater met her tragic fate. The pieces of the puzzle were falling into place.

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)

Elliott's criminal history revealed a chilling pattern of violence. As it turned out, he had been arrested in Colorado for a burglary charge around the time of Becker's murder. After serving his sentence, he committed a heinous sexual assault on a 13-year-old girl in Carson City, resulting in another arrest and subsequent imprisonment until 1991 when he was released on parole. It was during this parole period that he took the life of Sherrie Bridgewater.

The Final Confirmation

Although the suspect's identity was established in 2022, the confirmation required exhuming Elliott's body in October 2023 and collecting DNA samples from tissue and bone. The subsequent analysis left no room for doubt. The DNA evidence conclusively linked Elliott to both homicides, finally bringing closure to these long-standing mysteries.

"These are some of those cases that would not be solved with any other technology at the time that were available to detectives," remarked LVMPD Lt. Jason Johansson, highlighting the vital role of advancements in DNA technology in cracking this case.

A Grim Connection

Investigations also revealed a disturbing connection between Elliott and Bridgewater. It is believed that the two may have crossed paths at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, underscoring the importance of being cautious even in seemingly safe environments.

Unfortunately, Bridgewater's parents have passed away without ever seeing justice served. However, her adult sons have been notified, providing some solace and closure to her grieving family.

The resolution of this cold case serves as a testament to the perseverance and dedication of law enforcement agencies. While the passage of time may hinder justice, advances in technology continue to breathe new life into unresolved mysteries, offering hope to victims and their families.

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