Coroner sending evidence from Bricca murder scene to FBI for DNA testing

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September 27 doesn't come and go on the Westside without people talking about it.

The murder of three on a quiet, suburban street in Bridgetown still haunts the tight-knit Green Township community. Lori Harnest and Pauline West have lived in the area for most of their lives and say they remember it like it was yesterday.

"Somebody brings it up, the Bricca murder, every year," said West. "It shook up the whole neighborhood, [people were] scared to death, people were afraid to go out of their house. Then there was rumors of who did it; it was never, ever proven."

Investigators say the Bricca murders have generated the most gossip of any local cold case.

"It was on the news every night, we probably heard about it first from Al Schottelkotte," said West.

On a chilly September night in 1966, 28-year-old Jerry Bricca, an engineer at the Monsanto plastics facility in Addyston, was stabbed to death in his home on Greenway Avenue, along with his 23-year-old wife Linda and their 4-year-old daughter Debbie. 

 


Jerry and Linda Bricca

Investigators say the murders happened on Sunday, Sept. 25, 1966; the bodies were discovered two days later.

The last person to see Jerry alive was Joan Janzen, a neighbor taking her dog for a walk around 8:45 p.m. on Sunday night. Jerry was taking out the garbage. 

On Monday, Jerry missed his flight to West Virginia. His office called the house several times, but no one answered.

By Tuesday, the neighbors were starting to worry; the garbage cans were still outside, the flood lights were on and the dogs were barking.

The police report shows that Linda was placed on top of Jerry. He had a sock in his mouth and both had been stabbed several times.

9 On Your Side talked to one of the neighbors that found the bodies. He did not want to be identified, mainly because he was harassed right after the murder and took a lie-detector test before being cleared as a suspect.

"Well, the garbage cans were out and I didn't hear the dogs anytime, then I knew something was up and the lights were on," said the neighbor. "I wanted to go into the house but I didn't want to go by myself. No one on the street had seen the family for two days at this point. We went over and I opened that front door and the odor was so [horrific] that I came around the back here and called police. You don't forget something like that."

Linda was a former airline flight attendant from Chicago. She met Jerry on a flight to Seattle, where Jerry was working at the Monsanto company there. The family moved to Bridgetown in 1963 from Seattle.

Linda worked part-time at the Glenway Vet Clinic. There were rumors for years that she could have had an affair with the vet. 

Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Frank Cleveland said someone had "recent sex" with Linda Bricca when her body was found.

Some have tried to tie the Bricca murders to the murder of the Valerie Percy in Chicago. Percy was the daughter of former Illinois Senator Charles Percy. She was murdered a week before the Briccas. They were both from upper-class Chicago families, went to the same high school and had attended the same flight attendant program. Percy was also stabbed to death.

Police were unable to interrogate the main suspect in the case due to a recent ruling on Miranda Rights by the Supreme Court.

They never found a weapon, no one was ever charged and rumors of a love-triangle between Linda and the veterinarian were always just that: Rumors. While these case files may be 46 years old, Hamilton County detectives Douglas Todd and Brian Williams are still combing through the 400 interviews, trying to piece it together.

"I've taken these interview books and read through them two or three times. And I've made notes of stuff that really wasn't documented before," said Todd.

Detectives are hoping the coroner's office will be able to extract DNA from the fluid and hair samples they submitted in 2010 and 2012.

Next page: Modern methods could examine DNA closer

Hamilton County Coroner Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco showed 9 On Your Side the evidence bags and explained where the testing stands.

"Most of the evidence was collected 40 plus years ago and before a time when there was DNA analysis,  therefore they didn't know what to collect, how to collect it, how to preserve it and how to submit it for evaluation," said Dr. Sammarco.

Now, some of the evidence from the Bricca murder is going to be looked at by the FBI.

"We've reached out to the FBI, they have a more robust laboratory in the D.C. area in Quantico, so we are trying to see how they can help us and we are trying to extract different aspects of mitochondria DNA, which is something that they do the best in the country," Dr. Sammarco said.

Dr. Sammarco says the CODIS (The Combined DNA Index System) wasn't widely used until the 90s. She says the only way you could match the DNA is if the perpetrator's DNA is already in the system. 

If a match was made, the sheriff's office would turn it over to Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters.

"We would absolutely go after whoever did this if they are still alive; even if they are not, this case has affected so many people that we'd like to get some closure for everyone in the community," said Deters.

Deters went on to say the homicide investigators are some of the best in the country and he is surprised no one has ever been caught talking about their involvement.

"It's pretty rare, especially today, to have a genuine cold case and in this particular case, it's odd that [someone] would commit something like this and never utter a word about it to anybody. Usually people get in trouble because they shoot their mouths off about it. And in this case, as far as we know, no one has ever said anything," said Deters.

Everyone 9 On Your Side talked to, from the coroner to the detectives, are positive about the possibility of solving this case.

"For all the people involved, for everyone that has voiced their opinions and hearing from their friends, their stories and their recollections of it. I just think that for the Westside of Cincinnati it would be tremendous," said Williams.

"I wouldn't see why it wouldn't. We're still working on the case, we're still working with the coroner's office on evidence recently submitted. We have every intention on solving it," said Todd.

9 On Your Side went to Columbus to talk to Ohio Attorney General Mike Dewine about this case and his Unsolved Crimes Database. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation's database provides details and photos related to unsolved homicides and solicits tips from the public to assist local law enforcement in pursuing their investigations.

"I think we owe the victims' families our best efforts," said Dewine. "We can't tell them that we're ever going to solve the homicide of their husband or brother, sister or child, but we ought to be able to tell them, 'hey, we're going to do our best and we're going to stay at it.' Whoever the victim is to you has not been forgotten. We're going to stay on this- we're going to keep working on it."

Dewine says Cincinnati's local departments have been diligent in pursuing these difficult cases and helping document them.

"The Cincinnati Police Department has been very cooperative; they've put in over 300 unsolved homicides so far. We think statewide we have 5,000 unsolved homicides, we have already about 1,300 in the database," said Dewine.

"[The case has] really never been put down for a long period of time. I was told back in the day when detectives were first starting out they were assigned this case to look at and investigate. This was a lot of guys' first case when they came in, because they would like to get a fresh perspective on what the case was about and their ideas," said Todd.

 

 

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