Major Crimes Detective Works with Genetic Genealogy and DNA to Solve Nearly 45-Year-Old Cold Case Murder/Sexual Assault
Spokane County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Detective M. Drapeau, working with the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab and Othram Inc., a private forensic sequencing laboratory, has developed probable cause to charge the suspect in a nearly 45-year-old Cold Case Murder and Sexual Assault of the then 16-year-old victim, Krisann Baxter. The suspect, Keith D. Lindblom, died in a fire on April 11, 1981, with his death certificate listing the manner of death as “accident”. Although he will not face criminal charges for taking the life of and sexually assaulting Krisann Baxter, Investigators, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, along with our assisting partnering agencies, hope this brings much-needed answers to Krisann’s family/friends and, at a minimum, a small amount of comfort knowing the suspect was identified through DNA testing.
On October 4, 1978, at approximately 11:25 am, power company employees discovered the lifeless body of 16-year-old Krisann Baxter near some powerlines south of and between Whitworth Drive and Division Street.
Spokane County Sheriff’s Deputies and Detectives responded to the location to begin the investigation. The scene was documented and processed for evidence with the assistance of forensic personnel.
Evidence, including possible DNA samples, was collected during the investigation and autopsy. The victim was identified as Krisann Baxter, who had been reported as a runaway by her mom on September 30, 1978.
Evidentiary items were sent to the Washington State Patrol (WSP) Crime Laboratory for testing. Although 1978 DNA testing abilities were limited compared to the testing abilities of today, the samples were believed to contain DNA. However, an analysis could not be completed due to these limitations. The evidence was securely stored for future testing.
In August 2006, knowing the advancement in DNA testing abilities, Major Crimes Detective D. Marske (Ret.) sent the samples back to the WSP Crime Lab for testing. The test results showed DNA consistent with Krisann Baxter and an “unknown male”. The male profile was entered into CODIS (Combined DNA Indexing System), but a match was not found.
In 2014, the profile was updated in CODIS and entered into the National DNA Indexing System (NDIS), where it is compared to every DNA entry in the nation on a rotating basis, but still, a match was not identified.
In 2020, Major Crimes Detective M. Drapeau again submitted the samples to the WSP Crime Lab for additional examination. A sample of the results was sent to Othram Inc., located in Texas, for further processing.
Detective M. Drapeau spoke with Othram Inc. and was informed that Othram scientists extracted DNA of a male suspect and it was sufficient for genealogical samples to be submitted for ancestry searching. Othram Genealogists identified a likely familial DNA match as a direct descendent of this known person (adult female) who was deceased. The living family members of the known person were contacted and interviewed. They provided DNA samples that were evaluated by Othram scientists and found to be inconsistent with the unknown suspect’s DNA profile but were consistent with a sibling or stepsibling of the suspect.
Efforts continued, and Keith D. Lindblom (born in 1949) was revealed as a possible person of interest. Detective M. Drapeau searched law enforcement databases and learned Lindblom was arrested and charged in Spokane County for the 1975 violent assault and rape of a 16-year-old female victim near the area Krisann Baxter’s body was discovered. Lindblom admitted to having intercourse with the juvenile victim and pled guilty to Assault 1st Degree in exchange for the rape charges being dropped. Lindblom stated he was innocent of the assault and only pled guilty due to the possible result of a trial.
Through the continued investigation, it was learned Lindblom was released from prison on August 7, 1978, and was not in custody at the time of Krisann Baxter’s murder and sexual assault. Lindblom’s death predated the entry of DNA into the CODIS and NDIS databases, which is why a DNA match was not found.
Detective M. Drapeau also located a child of Lindblom’s in Louisiana and, through a DNA comparison obtained by the Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office, found the DNA collected in 1978 showed 320 times more likelihood of a match to Lindblom and his known child than if it was compared to an unrelated individual selected at random from the U.S. population. Later, Whole Genome Sequencing (WSG) showed a parent/child relationship used in this sample comparison and based on 45 total segments, had a match confidence level of 100%.
Detective M. Drapeau consulted with the Spokane County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office about the case, and with this evidence, they agreed charges and Lindblom’s arrest were warranted if he was living.
This almost 45-year cold case investigation will be closed with “Exceptional Circumstances” due to Lindblom’s death.
The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank Othram, WSP Crime Lab, Jefferson Davis Parish Sheriff’s Office, Lindblom’s family members who cooperated during this investigation, and mostly, the family of the victim, Krisann Baxter, for their patience and assistance during this long and difficult journey to identify her killer.