It’s not often that families of cold case victims get answers.  This month we told you how the Greenville Police Department solved a 28-year-old murder.  And 7News has learned exclusively, that same department believes it’s close to solving another case. 

Greenville P.D. attributes its success in part to using untapped experience as well as a new form of DNA testing that is putting new life into old death investigations.

If you look back at the 28 years that passed before the murder of Jenny Zitricki was solved, it’s not like the Greenville crime scene didn’t turn up lots of leads over the decades.

Sergeant Tim Conroy would know, he’s been the lead investigator on the Zitricki murder for the past decade.

“Over the years working it, we had some really really good leads and every time we were let down, so you kind of get numb to these good leads,” said Sgt. Conroy.

When Chief Ken Miller came on board, he asked the investigative team lead by Lt. Jason Rampey to reach out to retired investigators who might be willing to help beef up the cold case unit. 

“We sought them out, we knew we had some guys who had been retired, who had maintained relationships with officers, so we sought them out and pitched it to them and they were agreeable to it, and they’ve been with us since 2017,” said Lt. Rampey.

Two former Greenville Police Investigators and one retired FBI agent work every week on cold cases.  Those are volunteer positions and we can’t introduce you to them because they don’t want to jeopardized another cold case that they believe they’re close to solving.

Sgt.Conroy is leading the cold case team.

“They want to be able to be confidential when they’re moving forward with this case and when they get leads,” said Conroy.

And while the department can’t yet say which of the 12 unsolved Greenville city murders may no longer be cold, they did pinpoint a few cases that are under close scrutiny.

“There are two cases on there, the Ryan case and the Dale Fetner case, I know they’ve been working on really hard,”

In October of 1988, 80-year-old Alice Ryan was stabbed to death in her Cleveland Park Home.

And two years later, Dale Fetner, was found stabbed to death outside his Greenville apartment.

What helped crack the Zitricki case after a 28 year wait for the family was a form of DNA testing called genetic genealogy.

“It was chilling when they walked us through the report and talked about a family tree and then narrowed that down to two individuals, who were brothers. And with one having a violent criminal history, we believed that to be our suspect, and it was Robert Brashers,” said Lt. Rampey.

To be 100 percent sure, investigators exhumed Brasher’s body.

Sergeant Conroy had the joy of telling Jenny’s brother.

“I can’t explain the feeling of letting him know and finally having closure after 28 years,” said Conroy. 

“You have traveled the long road, and reached the goal, and words alone cannot express our appreciation,” said Philip Hegedusih, at the press conference October 4th.

But there was another family, Brasher’s wife and two kids, Conroy also had to give shocking news.
  
“They were devastated obviously, they didn’t believe it could have been him, but the science of DNA is exact,” said Conroy.       

Investigators can’t yet say whether genetic genealogy is what makes them confident about cracking the next case. 

But they do say without a doubt, it’s the help of the unpaid private eyes with 100 years combined experience working behind this door that is making all the difference.

“These 3 retired officers, they are so passionate about this before they had a department car they would take their own car on trips to interview people, they would come work long hours and they are not getting compensated in any way for this, they just do it just this {butt and cover} From the goodness of their heart,” said Conroy.

“They’re doing a great service to Greenville,” said Lt. Rampey.

The Greenville Police Department wants to be very clear, it’s constantly reviewing all of its 12 cold case murders and no one case is a bigger priority than the other.  The Department says it does plan to look into each case to see whether the new DNA testing may be helpful in solving the crimes.