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Washington Police Identify Suspect in 1998 Cold Case Axe Murder of Teen Who Allegedly Met Her Killer on a Chat Line

Cold case murder victim Jennifer Brinkman appears in a photo shared by police

Jennifer Brinkman

Jennifer Brinkman was just 19 years old when she was murdered with an axe inside the bedroom of her father’s home in Marysville, Washington back in March 1998. Now, nearly a quarter of a century later, police say they have finally solved the longtime cold case.

The victim was home alone at the time of the gruesome incident. Her father was out of town during a vacation to California – a trip that she was originally planning on taking part in before changing her mind at the last minute. When Brinkman’s father returned to their house on Grove Street with his then-girlfriend, they discovered the worst.

Jeffrey Paul Premo, 52, was arrested and charged with one count of murder in the first degree on Nov. 28, 2022, the Marysville Police Department announced during a Tuesday press conference.

“It’s one of those things where it never leaves your thought process because it continues to be unsolved,” MPD Commander Robb Lamoureux, the original detective assigned to the Brinkman murder case, said. “It wasn’t until yesterday when we made the arrest and I was sitting at home thinking about it that it really hit that we’ve got a conclusion to this and we’re finally able to put it on a shelf and have some closure not only for us as investigators who have been involved in it but the family and the community.”

Police said the axe was used to strike the victim in her neck and left at the home after the slaying. Investigators and collected a DNA sample from the axe during the initial investigation but the technology of the time, then fairly nascent, precluded a match for that sample.

The case was recently reopened, police said, and that DNA sample was sent to Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based company that is nationally renowned for helping law enforcement crack cold cases through advanced forensic testing and mapping techniques.

According to police, three possible suspects were identified by the company earlier this year. Eventually, through a search warrant, law enforcement secured a DNA sample from Premo, who lives and works in Renton, Wash., near the Puget Sound. That warrant-obtained DNA, the MPD said, was sent to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab, and matched with the DNA found on the axe, MPD Detective Wade Rediger, the current lead investigator on the case, said.

The defendant was allegedly identified as a person of interest at the very beginning of the investigation, police said. Premo allegedly denied knowing the victim at all but officials said they later discovered that he had written Brinkman a letter just before she died.

Additionally, Rediger said, police found evidence the defendant had “tried to meet with” the victim “around the time of her death.”

Law enforcement shared additional details about the relationship between the alleged murderer and the cold case victim.

“Jennifer was a social individual,” MPD Detective Sergeant James Maples said. “She encouraged conversation as she would go to the library, walk around town. She engaged in telephone chat lines, dating sites, and actively sought companionship from people.”

Police believe Brinkman met her killer through one of those chat lines. During a question-and-answer session with local media, police identified the chat line as “Nightline,” a system whereby anonymous individuals call in and are connected with other anonymous people of the opposite gender.

The girl’s father died in 2013, but law enforcement said the news of the arrest was shared with Brinkman’s mother.

“She was extremely emotional,” Lamoureux said. “She cried and was very thankful for the work we put into it. I think it was an overwhelming emotion for her to finally have an answer.”

Premo is currently being detained in the Snohomish County Jail.

“Solving this case has been at the top of the priority list of the Marysville Police Department for the past 24-plus years,” MPD Chief Erik Scairpon said. “We never gave up, or put this on a shelf. It was continuously being investigated, with the belief that we would one day be able to bring some level of closure for the family and justice for Jennifer.”

[image via Marysville Police Department]

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