In a new breakthrough, Spokane County Major Crimes detectives have harnessed the power of genetic genealogy and DNA analysis to solve a chilling 45-year-old mystery cold case that has haunted the community since 1978.
The victim, 16-year-old Krisann Baxter, was brutally murdered and sexually assaulted near Whitworth University, leaving investigators puzzled for decades. Now, detectives have announced the closure of this long-standing mystery.
On October 4, 1978, the discovery of Krisann Baxter’s lifeless body sent shockwaves through Spokane County. The diligent efforts of law enforcement officers and forensic experts at the time resulted in the collection of crucial DNA evidence, but the limitations of DNA testing technology in 1978 left the case unsolved.
Fast forward to 2006, when advancements in DNA testing rekindled hope for justice. The evidence was resubmitted to the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory, revealing the presence of DNA from an “unknown male.” Despite relentless efforts, no match was found in both the Combined DNA Indexing System (CODIS) and the National DNA Indexing System (NDIS).
In 2020, the Spokane County Major Crimes detectives took a pivotal step by collaborating with Othram Inc., a renowned Texas-based DNA analysis firm. Othram’s genealogists embarked on an exhaustive journey to uncover the identity of the elusive suspect. Their breakthrough came when they identified a direct descendant of the suspect, albeit one who had passed away. Family members were contacted and willingly provided DNA samples, which, upon examination, proved consistent with a sibling or stepsibling of the elusive killer.
The trail led investigators to Keith D. Lindblom, who had a dark history of violence. Lindblom’s record included a 1975 arrest for the assault and rape of a 16-year-old female victim, charges that were ultimately reduced to assault. He was released from prison on August 7, 1978, just two months before Krisann Baxter’s tragic murder.
Tragically, Keith D. Lindblom perished in a fire on April 11, 1981, and his DNA was never entered into any criminal database due to his untimely death. However, a breakthrough came when detectives, through a DNA comparison obtained by the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office, found his son in Louisiana. The DNA analysis revealed a staggering 320 times higher likelihood of a match to Lindblom and his known child than to an unrelated individual chosen at random from the U.S. population.
The Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office was consulted about the newly unearthed evidence, and both parties concurred on the charges that Lindblom would have faced had he been alive. Regrettably, the suspect’s demise in 1981 means that he will not face criminal charges.
This almost half-century-old cold case will now be closed under “exceptional circumstances.” While justice may be denied in the courtroom, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office hopes this resolution brings closure to Krisann’s family and friends, providing a measure of comfort in the knowledge that the identity of the perpetrator has been revealed.
In closing, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office expressed profound gratitude to Krisann Baxter’s family for their unwavering patience and assistance throughout this 45-year-old mystery to uncover the truth behind her senseless murder.
- Photo by Jason Dent: instant images