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How determined detectives cracked cold case murders

SPOKANE, Wash. - The murders of Yolanda Sapp, Nickie Lowe and Kathleen Brisbois in 1990 were cold cases for decades, and while technology helped catch a suspect, it was the dogged determination of investigators that cracked the case.

The DNA matches that linked Douglas Perry to the trio of murders from the spring of 1990 weren't possible at the time of the killings; the technology just wasn't there. However the detectives who investigated the Sapp, Lowe and Brisbois murders saved the evidence anyway, not knowing what would finally lead them to the killer.

Investigators who worked on the murders at the time remember these case clearly just because there were so many victim in such a short time. Even though the cases went cold, the search for answers never stopped.

Detectives crack cold case murders

Detectives combed each murder scene, looking for anything and everything that could answer one question: Who killed three women in fourth months?

"At that particularly time we were pretty sure we probably had a serial murderer working, just didn't know who it was and where to go from there," former Spokane County Sheriff's Detective Jim Hansen said.

Hansen was one of the original detectives investigating the murders, chasing down lead after lead before the cases went cold.

"It just kind of goes on the back burner, never goes away, but it's always on the back burner," he said.

It was evidence collected by Hansen and his colleagues back in 1990 that finally helped crack the murder cases this year.

"Satisfied that maybe something you did when you did it was worthwhile," he said.

Four years ago a full DNA profile was created of the suspect; this September suspect DNA found on some of the evidence was linked to Douglas Perry.  Detectives went to Carrie Johnson's office in the Spokane County Sheriff's Forensics Unit to see if Perry's fingerprints matched ones found on one of the victim's personal items. It did.

"That was an 'Aha!' moment because it connected two of the homicides together," Johnson said.

The case immediately came back to Johnson, who collected evidence 22 years ago at two of three murder scenes. The case came full circle for her when she helped match the prints.

"You always hope," she said. "There are a lot of cases you work on for years and years and think 'Geez are we ever going to solve them?'"

It's just the beginning of getting answers that eluded investigators for decades.

Johnson added that advances in DNA technology made a huge differences in connecting the dots in this case.