The use of DNA technology and a philanthropic partnership helped solve a cold case from 1991, thus putting an end to a mystery that had persisted for decades. Find out how the Las Vegas police solved the case and helped two families find peace.
Breakthrough in Cold Case: Las Vegas Police Report Says DNA Technology Solved 1991 Murder, Connecting it to Colorado Killing
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department solved a disturbing early 1990s cold case. According to the Las Vegas Police Report, they have provided closure to two mourning families. The 1991 rape and murder of the mother of two, Sherrie Bridgewater was a mystery until DNA analysis and the perpetrator’s exhumation revealed the truth.
Lt. Jason Johansson named their killer, Thomas Martin Elliott on Wednesday. Elliott killed Bridgewater soon after he got out of jail for ten years in Nevada for raping a child in Carson City.
Johansson said Elliott killed himself in Las Vegas in December 1991 and was buried here.
The exact link between Elliott and Bridgewater wasn’t known, but Johansson said that both of them had been to the same Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in Las Vegas.
“We were, on the backside, able to provide two different families in this case closure,” Johansson said,
“and that closure, resolution, came through close collaboration between not only two law enforcement entities… but also close coordination with our community partners.” Johansson added.
Las Vegas Police Report: Uncovering the Link Between 1990s Cold Case Victims and Identifying Serial Killer Through DNA Analysis
A philanthropic individual, Justin Woo of Las Vegas, makes up the nonprofit organization that helped Metro solve cold cases by giving money for DNA tests.
The police were able to solve both cases with the help of new DNA technology.
Johansson said that in 2013, Las Vegas police sent a sample from Bridgewater’s sexual assault kit to a DNA lab.
He said, “At that time we were not able to put a name behind the DNA profile” of the suspect.
But after putting the sample into a national database, detectives found that the killer was also connected to Becker’s death, Johansson said.
It was the first time that year that officials from Las Vegas and Westminster worked together, he said.
Johansson said that Elliott was identified after more DNA tests were done in 2018 and 2022.
He did say that detectives wouldn’t be “100%” sure it was him until they had DNA from his body.
The Justice League then stepped in and paid for the dig, which took place in October, Johansson said.
Johansson said that samples of Elliot’s tissue and bone pieces were sent to another DNA lab, which confirmed what the police already thought.
Since then, Bridgewater’s parents have died, but Johansson said that police were able to tell her two sons to share the news.
“Unfortunately, it took a long time to get to this point, but these are some of those cases that would not be solved with any other technology at the time are available to detectives,” Johansson said.
Johansson said that his unit would keep looking into the murders that haven’t been solved. He also said that on Wednesday, the family of another victim called him to ask about a cold case.