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DNA expert called in on murder probe

By Travis Henry
The Daily Times-Call

BOULDER — Police are turning to a familiar face for help in solving the 1997 murder of 23-year-old University of Colorado student Susannah Chase.

Dr. Henry Lee, a world-renowned DNA expert who has worked extensively on the JonBenet Ramsey homicide, arrived in Boulder late Sunday night and spent Monday examining evidence.

“Having worked with Dr. Lee on the JonBenet Ramsey homicide, we saw his unique ability to offer insights on physical evidence,” Sgt. Kurt Weiler said.

Lee, a Connecticut criminologist, was invited by Boulder police to look at the case by after Chase’s family requested that the police ask for his help.

“It is just another effort to leave no stone unturned,” Chief Mark Beckner said.

Lee joined detectives Monday morning in reexamining the crime scene near 18th and Spruce Streets where police believe Chase was brutally beaten with a baseball bat on Dec. 21, 1997, and left for dead.

She died at Boulder Community Hospital the next day.

“We went back to the scene to take a second look,” Lee said. “We also spent the whole morning reviewing the whole case and photographs.”

Later in the afternoon, Lee examined all of the evidence gathered by police, including a bloodied youth-size Louisville Slugger baseball bat that police believe was used to kill Chase.

“We are trying to see what new tests could be performed,” Lee said.

Although police are optimistic that new advances in forensics science could help the case, they believe that the murder will be most probably be solved with help from the public.

“We need information from the public badly,” Cmdr. Joe Pelle said.

Police plan to release a highly detailed picture of the silver bat on their Web site today and are hoping citizens can provide some information as to whom it belonged.

“If the public can give us some information, it will help the police investigation tremendously,” Lee said.

Investigators reaffirmed Monday that they don’t believe a baseball bat found in May at a Niwot home was connected to the Chase murder .

That bat was buried in the back yard of a house where 23-year-old Patrick Purcell, who had been questioned in the case, used to live.

Purcell, who provided police with mouth swabs for DNA samples, was not found to be connected with the homicide and was not considered a suspect, police said.

Police believe that Chase was walking alone from the Pearl Street Mall area to her home sometime after 1:20 a.m. when she was attacked.

The 5-foot-4-inch Chase was wearing a red-and-plaid insulated jacket, black pants and black ankle boots.

Although Beckner said that they would be concentrating on the Chase homicide and not discussing the Ramsey murder with Lee, outgoing District Attorney Alex Hunter planned to meet with Lee on Monday night.

“We will be meeting as friends and professional colleagues tonight,” Hunter said Monday. “We will be talking about lots of things.”

While Hunter’s last official day on the job was Monday, he said he will remain available to new District Attorney Mary Keenan for advice regarding the Ramsey case.

Anyone with information on the Chase case is asked to call Boulder detectives at 303-441-3330.