Police in Spokane, Washington have finally solved the cold case surrounding the horrific stabbing and brutal sexual assault of a 12-year-old after 35 years.
In Spokane, Washington, 12-year-old Marsi Belecz, a sixth-grader at Grant Elementary School, had run away from home on August 3, 1985.
Two days later, a grisly discovery was made in a towing yard in the East Central Neighborhood near her home. Marsi’s mutilated body was found.
She had been stabbed 31 times, twice in the head and 29 times on her chest. Her throat had also been cut. She had been assaulted.
The 12-year-old had no defensive wounds, indicating she did not fight off her attacker. Authorities determined she had been killed at the same location where her body was found.
In the ensuing investigation, police established a list of 87 potential suspects.
Due to the age of the victim and the ferociousness of the crime, detectives say the girl’s murder stayed with them. The brutality of the crime also affected the neighborhood, causing people to change their behaviors, fearful and worried about their safety as the killer had never been caught.
The case eventually went cold. However, investigators continued working the case for 35 years, never giving up.
Out of the 87 suspects, authorities were able to clear 12 through DNA over the years. Still, others could not be ruled out.
DNA technology has been constantly approving, especially in recent years, and more and more police departments are beginning to solve crimes through DNA thanks to the availability of large public databases, especially those related to genealogy.
In 2019, Brian Hammond, a detective with the Spokane Police Department, submitted a DNA sample taken from the original crime scene to Parabon NanoLabs DNA. The lab sent back not one, but four possible suspects.
Through further DNA testing, two of the four potential suspects were eliminated.
According to the renewed DNA evidence, a new suspect came to light who had never been part of the original 87 suspects that authorities investigated.
The only problem was – this new suspect was dead. Based on this evidence, police obtained DNA samples from members of this suspect’s family. It was a match and increased their suspicions.
From there, police obtained permission to exhume the body of the deceased man, named Clayton Giese.
Clayton Giese was living in Spokane at the time of Marsi’s murder. He was 22 years old and had a very minor criminal record, only involving marijuana.
Four years after the 12-year-old was killed, Giese died in a rollover crash in January of 1989.
Testing on the DNA obtained from Giese’s exhumed body was a perfect match to the DNA recovered at the crime scene with a rate of 1.1 nonillions. Investigators say it’s one of the closest DNA matches ever seen.
While the findings don’t necessarily bring justice in this case, it does bring some sense of closure to the family after not knowing for 35 years.
Based on the remarkable findings that new DNA technology is bringing to police departments around the country, Spokane Police say they are going to continue to work on solving other cold cases using DNA.
Spokane Police said they have roughly 113 unsolved murders still on the books that date back to the 1950s. They hope DNA technology will help them solve some of these cold cases as well.