April 15 (UPI) -- Investigators say they have solved the 1976 slaying of a 15-year-old girl and her unborn baby in western Pennsylvania, thanks to a DNA hit on an ancestry database.
The Pennsylvania State Police, joined by Carbon County District Attorney Michael Greek on Wednesday announced the arrest of Luis Sierra, 63, on a homicide charge for the death of Evelyn Colon 45 years ago.
Sierra was arrested in New York City and sent to the Carbon County Correctional Facility in Nesquehoning, Pa., officials said.
Colon had been dating Sierra, who was then 19, at the time of her death.
Police ultimately found Colon's dismembered remains and those of her unborn child in suitcases that had been tossed off an Interstate 80 overpass near the Lehigh River five days before Christmas in 1976. Until the recent ancestral DNA match, investigators didn't know the identity of the dead girl and she was known only as "Beth Doe."
Authorities said the ancestry database connected the DNA to Colon's nephew and led to the break in the case.
Colon's family never reported her missing and said they received a letter from her in 1977 saying her baby had been born and they both were doing well.
An autopsy showed that Colon died of manual strangulation and had a gunshot wound in her neck.
Greek said Sierra faces one count of homicide for Colon's death. It's unclear if he'll be charged with the unborn child's death.
"In 1976, laws were different," Greek said during Wednesday's news conference. "They didn't provide for a homicide of an unborn child."
Police have used genealogical DNA databases to solve a number of cases in recent years, most notably that of the Golden State Killer, Joseph DeAngelo, in 2018. He was sentenced to life in prison after pleading guilty to 13 murders in California during the 1970s and 1980s.