DNA led to murder suspect in 1985 Chicago-area cold case

FOX 32's Larry Yellen contributed to this report.

CHICAGO (AP) - A DNA sample submitted by a central Illinois man after a recent conviction led to his arrest in the 1985 stabbing death of a teenager who'd left her suburban Chicago home to buy candy, authorities said Monday.

Kristina Wesselman's body was found July 22, 1985, in a field she used as a shortcut to a grocery store from her home in unincorporated Glen Ellyn. The case went cold years ago and many gave up hope that it would ever be solved.

Michael R. Jones, 62, of Champaign, appeared in bond court Monday on two counts of murder and one of aggravated sexual assault in the killing of the popular 15-year-old student, who excelled in sports and had been freshman class president. Jones, who was arrested Sunday, is being held without bond.

State's Attorney Robert Berlin heralded the arrest at a Monday news conference.

"The pain, grief and fear felt by the Wesselman family and the entire community has never gone away," he said.

Wesselman's brother, Bill Wesselman, expressed relief, saying his initial reaction to the arrest was "shock and awe."

"We've been waiting for news like this for 30 years," he said.

Jones has denied any involvement in the killing, Berlin said. Public defender Jeff York, who was assigned to represent Jones, declined comment later Monday.

"The defendant denied ever being in Glen Ellyn. and when they showed the defendant a photograph of the victim, Kristi Wesselman, defedant stated,' as God is my witness, I've never seen her before," Berlin said.

At the time of Wesselman's killing, Jones was on parole for a 1977 sexual assault after serving less than seven years in prison, Berlin said.

The break for investigators came after Jones pleaded guilty in Champaign County in July to felony aggravated domestic battery and provided a DNA sample, Berlin said. A 2002 law requires felons to submit specimens for genetic marker testing.

DuPage County investigators were informed Sept. 10 about the DNA match with evidence from a sexual assault kit in the Wesselman case, the prosecutor's office said.

During a renewed public push for leads four years ago, Wessleman's mother, Sandy, said she vowed at her daughter's funeral to never stop looking for her killer.

"I didn't know that was going to be lifetime process," she said then.

At that time, investigators also disclosed for the first time that Wesselman was thought to be wearing an heirloom pearl ring, which was missing. It wasn't immediately clear if that ring played any role in Jones'arrest.

Detectives traveled outside Illinois to tell Wesselman's mother about the arrest, Berlin said.

“The DuPage County sheriff’s office and law enforcement never gave up on the murder of Kristy Wesselman,” Berlin said. “This has remained an open case for more than 30 years.”

"We'd like to thank law enforcement for their tireless efforts in bringing this to this day," Wesselman said.

Jones is due in court Oct. 13 to be arraigned. If convicted, he faces a life prison sentence.