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DNA from Discarded Coffee Cup Leads to Man’s Arrest in 46-Year-Old Cold Case of Woman Allegedly Murdered with Her Own Kitchen Knife

David Sinopoli via Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office

David Sinopoli via Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office.

Identifying the suspect through DNA obtained from a discarded coffee cup, Pennsylvania authorities arrested a 68-year-old man for killing a woman inside of her home more than 45 years ago. David Sinopoli was taken into custody on Sunday morning and charged with the 1975 murder of 19-year-old Lindy Sue Biechler, authorities say.

“Lindy Sue Biechler was 19 when her life was brutally taken away from her 46 years ago in the sanctity of her own home,” District Attorney Heather Adams said in a statement Monday. “This arrest marks the beginning of the criminal process in Lancaster County’s oldest cold case homicide and we hope that it brings some sense of relief to the victim’s loved ones and to community members who for the last 46 years had no answers.”

Investigators said that Biechler on Dec. 5, 1975 returned from the grocery store to her home located on Kloss Drive in Manor Township between 6:45 p.m. and 7:05 p.m. Shortly after entering the residence, she was allegedly attacked by Sinopoli, who authorities say stabbed her a total of 19 times in the neck, chest, upper abdomen, and back.

According to a press release from the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office and the Manor Township Police Department, Biechler’s aunt and uncle found her lying on her back in a pool of blood with “a knife sticking out of her neck” at approximately 8:46 p.m. that evening and called authorities. The knife handle was wrapped with a tea towel and matched the knives stored in the knife block located in Biechler’s kitchen.

Investigators at the scene said there were signs of a struggle inside and outside of Biechler’s home. Police found blood spatter on the outside of the home’s front door, in the entrance way, and on multiple portions of the carpet. DNA samples were obtained and placed into evidence.

The Lancaster County Coroner’s Office determined Biechler’s manner of death to be a homicide and the cause of death to be massive blood loss due to multiple stab wounds.

Investigators conducted an in-depth investigation, interviewing multiple people and clearing “dozens” of people, but were unable to identify a suspect in Biechler’s murder and the case went cold.

In 1997, investigators with the district attorney’s office submitted DNA evidence obtained from the right side of Biechler’s underwear for analysis. The substance was identified as semen and investigators worked up a male DNA profile. The unidentified male DNA profile was submitted to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), which is a series of national DNA databases maintained by the FBI, but no matches were found.

In January 2019, the DA’s newly formed cold case unit took over the investigation and submitted the unknown male DNA profile to Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based company that specializes in providing phenotyping services to law enforcement agencies. The lab analyzed the DNA using its Snapshot Advanced DNA Analysis and provided investigators with phenotypes revealing characteristics such as skin tone, eye color, and hair color.

Continuing with further genetic genealogy analysis, Parabon in December 2020 “ultimately identified Sinopoli through his Italian ancestry as a possible person of interest.”

“On February 11, 2022, investigators surreptitiously obtained DNA from Sinopoli from a coffee cup he used and threw into a trash can before traveling at the Philadelphia International Airport. The coffee cup was then submitted to DNA Labs International for testing and in April 2022, it was determined that the DNA on the coffee cup contained a mixture of DNA with one male contributor,” the release states.

An analysis by Pittsburgh-based genetics lab Cybergenetics concluded that the DNA on Sinopoli’s coffee cup and DNA identified in the semen on Biechler’s underwear had “a match statistic around 10 trillion.”

Last month, a blood spatter expert identified two blood spots from the exposed part of Biechler’s pantyhose which were analyzed and determined to be consistent with the DNA profile obtained from the semen on her underwear.

“There has been a never-ending pursuit of justice in this case that has led us to identifying and arresting Sinopoli,” DA Adams said. “Lindy Sue Biechler was on the minds of many throughout the years. Certainly, law enforcement never forgot about Lindy Sue, and this arrest marks the first step to obtaining justice for her and holding her killer responsible.”

Authorities urged anyone with information relevant to Biechler’s murder or who had familiarity with Sinopoli during the December 1975 timeframe to contact Lancaster County Detective Christopher Erb at 717-299-8100.

[image via Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.