DNA Test Solves 45-Year-Old Double-Murder Mystery in Montana - NBC Bay Area
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

DNA Test Solves 45-Year-Old Double-Murder Mystery in Montana

Investigators now believe the Montana couple was killed by Cecil Stan Caldwell

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    DNA Test Solves 45-Year-Old Double-Murder Mystery in Montana
    AP
    Photos of Linda and Clifford Bernhardt, who were killed in 1973, are displayed at a press conference at the Yellowstone County administrative offices in Billings, Montana on Monday, March 25, 2019. Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder, pictured at right, says authorities have identified the couple's now-deceased killer.

    A genealogy database used to match a family's DNA with evidence found at a 1973 crime scene has led investigators to identify the long-dead suspect in the strangulation killing of a young married couple, a Montana sheriff said Monday.

    Linda and Clifford Bernhardt, both 24, were killed at their Billings-area home in a case that would stymie investigators for decades.

    Investigators now believe they were killed by Cecil Stan Caldwell, a longtime city of Billings employee who was once a co-worker of Linda Bernhardt, Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said. He did not identify a motive in the killing.

    Caldwell had no criminal record, and died in 2003 at the age of 59, according to his obituary in the Billings Gazette.

    Pollen Problems: How Climate Change Supersizes Allergy Season

    [NATL] Pollen Problems: How Climate Change Supersizes Allergy Season

    Climate change is changing pollen production patterns and impacting everyone with seasonal allergies. Take a deeper look at the problem and see what you can do to help fight off the coughing and sneezing.

    (Published 59 minutes ago)

    Relatives of the victims attended a news conference in which Linder named Caldwell as the suspect. The family issued a statement thanking the sheriff's office for its work, but made no further comment and asked for privacy.

    Clifford Bernhardt was a concrete worker and Vietnam veteran and his wife worked at a grocery distribution warehouse. They been married several years and had just moved into a new house when they were killed.

    Linda Bernhardt had been bound and sexually assaulted before her death, and authorities used psychologists to try to build a profile of the suspect, according to reports at the time.

    Hundreds of interviews were conducted, and police at one point even brought in a psychic in their desperate search for clues to a crime described in a newspaper article as "the most sensational unsolved murder case in Billings history."

    They also enlisted the help of "The Amazing Kreskin," when the mentalist visited town, according to a 1980 news report.

    Scott Goodwin, a volunteer with the cold case unit who helped with the investigation, said he and others involved were unwilling to let it go.

    'You Never Get Over It': 20 Years After Columbine

    [NATL] 'You Never Get Over It': A Look Back 20 Years After Columbine

    Family, friends, teachers and survivors look back twenty years after Columbine, in an anniversary made tougher by a threat from a South Florida high schooler. 

    (Published Friday, April 19, 2019)

    "We were obsessed with it," Goodwin said. "These are two young people who didn't deserve what happened to them. They didn't do anything. They came home on a Tuesday night and they were murdered."

    All other leads had dried up by 2004, when DNA was discovered on evidence gathered at the crime scene.

    But comparing that DNA against an FBI database of known criminals yielded no results, leaving authorities frustrated yet again.

    In 2015, the sheriff's cold case unit enlisted a Reston, Virginia, technology company, Parabon NanoLabs, to analyze the DNA by comparing it to genetic samples available through a public genealogy database. That process ultimately narrowed the list of suspects to Caldwell and his brother, who is still alive and living outside the area, said Vince Wallis, a former detective captain with the sheriff's office who now works for the Billings Police Department.

    After DNA was obtained voluntarily from the brother, it was analyzed by the Montana State Crime Lab to eliminate him as a suspect. That left only Caldwell, Wallis said.

    Wallis added other circumstantial evidence including "unspecified behavior" by Caldwell connected the suspect to the crime scene, but he declined to offer additional details.

    Mueller Report: 10 Instances of Possible Obstruction of Justice by Trump

    [NATL] Mueller Report: 10 Instances of Possible Obstruction of Justice by Trump

    Special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election included instances of potential obstruction by President Donald Trump. Here is a rundown of the ten mentioned in the report.

    (Published Thursday, April 18, 2019)

    An anonymous donor in 2013 had offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the couple's killer.