1998-07-03: Chase tests turn up little
Chase tests turn up little
By Matt Sebastian
Camera Staff Writer
Seven months after the brutal murder of University of Colorado senior Susannah Chase, the detective investigating the slaying pledges to forge on "until all leads are exhausted."
But Kerry Yamaguchi has yet to reach that point and is candid about the state of his investigation.
"Do we have enough for an arrest warrant?" Yamaguchi asked. "Probably not."
But police did have enough, in recent months, to secure court-ordered saliva samples from at least two potential suspects, including one man who knew Chase and alluded to killing both her and JonBenét Ramsey.
Additionally, Boulder police have taken voluntary samples from at least 14 people, according to court documents recently obtained by the Daily Camera.
Police had hoped to match a perpetrator's DNA to semen recovered from Chase's body — semen that a Colorado Bureau of Investigation analyst said was no more than 30 hours old at the time it was recovered.
"A vast majority of the people have been very cooperative," Yamaguchi said Wednesday, admitting the number of genetic samples he has taken is unusual.
But none has matched.
Neither have any of Colorado's registered sex offenders. And a similar nationwide comparison has proven fruitless so far, the detective said.
Chase, 23, was found severely beaten early Dec. 21 in an alley near 19th and Pearl streets in Boulder. She died the next day from massive head wounds.
Police suspect she was attacked about a block away, across the street from her home at 18th and Spruce streets, where they found a 40-foot trail of blood and a bloody baseball bat.
The day Chase died, John Eller, then-commander of the detective bureau, told Whittier neighbors, "We have no reason to believe it was a sexual assault."
Since then, though, police have eased up on that assessment and, on Wednesday, Yamaguchi admitted police still don't know whether Chase was raped before she died.
Semen was recovered from Chase's body and, according to an affidavit, CBI investigators determined it was no more than 30 hours old at the time the swabs were taken — about five or six hours after Chase's unconscious body was found.
But, Yamaguchi pointed out, there were no physical signs of sexual assault on Chase's body. "We don't know whether it was consensual or non-consensual," the detective said in January.
Yamaguchi also has said the inability to match the semen to someone known to the investigation "supports our earlier comments that this may be a random attack."
In February, a drifter arrested in Tacoma, Wash., after the killing of a local woman confessed to killing Chase and a Boulder transient last year. Police ruled out Kelly Ray Thompson after questioning him in Tacoma and discovering he hadn't been in Boulder at the time of the two slayings.
Another potential suspect ruled out is a 25-year-old University of Colorado political science major once arrested after being accused of beating his mother in the head with the butt of a shotgun.
According to court documents, the student told police he met Chase three years ago while they both worked for Greenpeace.
The CU student, who told investigators he was in Mexico at the time of the Chase murder, refused to provide saliva samples and even installed a surveillance camera outside the door to his Boulder apartment after police first visited him, according to court documents.
Investigators were interested in the student because he talked often about the Chase murder and serial killers in general. One acquaintance told police the student had newspaper clippings about the Chase homicide hanging on his apartment walls.
The student also told a friend he wanted a bumper sticker that said, "I Killed Her." When asked who he was referring to, the CU student said, "Either one, JonBenét Ramsey or Susannah Chase," according to an affidavit.
Police secured a court order for the potential suspect's saliva in late April and took a sample after arresting him on an unrelated warrant for harassment and ethnic intimidation.
Another acquaintance told the Daily Camera on Wednesday that the political science major vanished about a week after police took his saliva sample.
Yamaguchi said Wednesday the CU student "at this point is not a suspect" and has been cleared by more than just the lack of a DNA match.
At the time of that court order in late April, police had received voluntary samples from 14 people. A court order had been necessary to secure two more samples.
Yamaguchi said additional samples have been taken since then, but he wouldn't say how many. All told, he said, "tens" of people have been tested against the semen found in Chase's body.