It took nearly 50 years, but the 1969 cold case murder of a Harvard University student has finally been solved thanks to forensic technology advances, a Massachusetts district attorney announced Tuesday afternoon.
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced that the DNA of serial rapist Michael Sumpter was linked to remaining evidence samples in the brutal sexual assault and murder of 23-year-old Jane Britton, who was found dead in her Cambridge apartment on Jan. 7, 1969.
"The mystery has finally been solved," Ryan said.
Britton's slaying is the third killing that Sumpter has been linked to since his death from cancer in 2001 at the age of 54.
Britton's brother, The Rev. Boyd R. Britton, released a statement after the announcement:
"A half-century of mystery and speculation has clouded the brutal crime that shattered Jane's promising young life and our family. The DNA evidence match may be all we ever have as a conclusion. Learning to understand and forgive remains a challenge," said Britton.
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Britton's boyfriend went to check on her after she failed to show up for an exam. Officials said she was found sexually assaulted on her blood-stained mattress, suffering from multiple blunt force injuries to her head.
The night before her body was found, Britton had gone to dinner with classmates and went ice skating with her boyfriend in Cambridge.
Britton was studying anthropology at Harvard, and her father was at the time a vice president at Radcliffe College, a women's school in Cambridge that later merged with Harvard.
There's no indication that Sumpter and Britton knew each other, according to authorities; however, Sumpter said he was working on a street near her Harvard Square apartment at the time of her death.
Authorities said over the years, the case posed many challenges.
"Over time as people’s memories faded and witnesses died it became even more difficult to follow up on new investigatory leads," Ryan said. Today we are able to provide closure to Jane’s family, friends and those who knew her."
"Never give up on a case," she added. "No matter what the passage of time may be."
In October 2012, the Suffolk County District Attorney's Office identified Sumpter as the assailant in the Dec. 12, 1973 homicide and sexual assault of 24-year-old Mary Lee McClain at her Beacon Hill apartment in Boston.
At that time, McClain's death had been the second attributed to Sumpter through DNA testing. Two years earlier, authorities linked him to the 1972 rape and murder of 23-year-old Ellen Rutchick at her Beacon Street resident in West Roxbury.
Prosecutors say they don't believe Sumpter knew any of his victims.
Relatives of Sumpter couldn't immediately be found through public records.