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Can DNA genealogy help solve a cold case murder in Butte?

Posted at 9:47 AM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 11:52:19-05

BUTTE — "My mom was a wonderful, compassionate, beautiful woman," said Jennifer Macphee.

Jennifer MacPhee's mom, Julianne Stallman was murdered in her home on California Avenue on Nov. 29, 1994.

She had been stabbed to death, her throat slit, and the kitchen was covered in blood.

"She was my mom and so she was my best friend," said MacPhee.

Julianne's killer has never been caught..but that could change - thanks to DNA genealogy.

"This is a moving forward direction that we’re in and I am once again very hopeful," said MacPhee.

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The Butte-Silver Bow Police Department will be taking the male DNA found at the crime scene to a private lab in hopes of finding genealogical information.

"Eventually we will be able to identify this person, I think. Hopefully, I’ll still be here when that happens," said Butte-Silver Bow Sheriff Ed Lester.

It’s been a frustrating 27 years for Sheriff Ed Lester.

When the murder happened, he was a patrol officer on the graveyard shift. He was assigned to investigate the case in 2004 when he joined the detective division.

Lester says Julianne’s murder was one of the most violent crime scenes he had ever seen in Butte.

"Those are the things that keep me awake at night when you think about 27 years' worth of investigation that we still don’t know who the suspect is in this case," said Lester.

That's where DNA genealogy tests come in, "technology’s improving every single day," said Lester.

Stallman case

DNA from a crime scene gets uploaded into genetic genealogy databases. When matches start rolling in, police can trace a suspect through his or her family tree.

"I think this is how this case is going to be solved," said MacPhee.

Julianne’s daughter has dedicated her life to catching her mom’s killer. Now after 27 years, the case will hinge on the next few months.

"It will be months, this will be months and I’m well aware of it and I’m okay with it," said MacPhee.

After all, what're a few months compared to a lifetime? "I wish that I had had more time with her," said MacPhee.