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Her death remained a mystery for 46 years. Now, DNA evidence from a coffee cup at the airport led to an arrest

But with the help of DNA lifted from a coffee cup earlier this year, investigators were able to charge a Pennsylvania man with the stabbing of the 19-year-old woman in 1975.

Biechler’s aunt and uncle found her dead in her apartment December 5, 1975, with 19 stab wounds, lying on her back with a knife sticking out of her neck and with a tea towel wrapped around the wooden handle, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

She had just come back from the grocery store, investigators said, and bags from the market were left on the dining room table.

Over the years, detectives from Manor Township Police Department and the Pennsylvania State Police conducted investigations into the homicide, following multiple leads and clearing dozens of people, the district attorney’s office said. Evidence was sent to several labs and multiple suspect interviews were completed, the DA’s office reported.

Genetic genealogy analysis used DNA from the crime scene and ultimately identified David Sinopoli, 68, as a suspect, according to the DA’s office.

Sinopoli was arrested at his home on Sunday without incident, was arraigned, and is being held at Lancaster County Prison without bail, police said.

CNN has reached out to the County of Lancaster Public Defender’s Office which is representing Sinopoli.

“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,” Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said in a news release.

DNA evidence from a coffee cup

In 1997, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office said it submitted evidence from the crime scene for DNA analysis and a male DNA profile was lifted from Biechler’s underwear.

Three years later, the DNA profile was submitted into a national database, also known as CODIS, to see if there was a match with a known criminal offender. Typically, if a person isn’t a known offender, they wouldn’t be in the CODIS system and, therefore, no match would present itself, which was the case here, the DA’s office explained.
This cold case is the first genetic genealogy arrest to go to trial

In January 2019, the investigation gained new traction after it was taken on by the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit, which enlisted the help of Parabon NanoLabs months later to analyze DNA obtained in the case.

Sinopoli was identified as a possible person of interest, CeCe Moore, researcher with Parabon NanoLabs, said at a news conference Monday.

Because there weren’t any individual genetic matches to the suspect’s DNA, Moore had to try a “novel, nontraditional” route to narrow down the potential suspect, she said. Given Sinopoli’s Italian ancestry, Moore studied geographical and immigration patterns as well as associated surnames and determined the person linked to the DNA sample had ties to Gasperina, a town in the Calabria region of southern Italy.

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“There were very few individuals living in Lancaster at the time of the crime that were the right age, gender and had a family tree consistent with these origins, so this allowed me to prioritize candidates whose descent was determined to be exclusively from families with origins in Gasperina,” Moore said.

Sinopoli and Biechler had lived in the same four-unit building of the apartment complex at one point, Adams said during a news conference Monday, but did not specify when. Other than being neighbors, Adams did not elaborate on how the pair may have been connected.

Investigators kept a close watch on Sinopoli through surveillance, and on February 11, “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 district attorney’s office said.

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“There has been a never-ending pursuit of justice in this case that has led us to identifying and arresting Sinopoli,” 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,” Adams added.

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