The murder of 78-year-old Rose Hnath from North Whitehall stunned the Lehigh Valley. Investigators are still looking for her killer 33 years later. In part two of her three-part series "The Science of Justice," 69 News Reporter Jaccii Farris takes a look at the investigation into Rose's death.
NORTH WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. -78-year-old Rose Hnath was murdered in 1989, but investigators never forgot about her.
Neither did Rosalie Williams.
She bought Rose's North Whitehall home a year after the murder, and videotaped the move in. Rosalie says fingerprint powder was still on the windowsills and cabinets. And evidence of the brutal attack remained.
"We saw glass on the floor by the back door and there was blood on the refrigerator," Rosalie said.
Rosalie says the first time investigators paid her a visit was five years after the murder, and then again in 2017. Over the years, investigators kept re-evaluating the evidence they collected at the house.
Even though there were fingerprints that didn't belong to Rose all over the place, those fingerprints haven't shown up in any national database.
And reports of a grey truck in the neighborhood around the time of the murder didn't pan out. Investigators say the only obvious lead was the burglary of Rose's house the month before.
"It would be hard to believe that this woman goes her whole life leading a pretty simple life at this house, there’s a burglary where a firearm and jewelry is taken and now weeks later that house is burglarized again," said Det. Thomas McAndrew with the Lehigh County District Attorney's Office.
Detectives working the case say the thieves may have come back, or word might have spread that Rose's house was an easy target. They say a burglary ring was operating in the Lehigh Valley at the time.
But after interviewing dozens of people over several decades, there were no solid leads.
But then in 2018, advances in DNA technology led to the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo, who was later convicted of 12 murders and 50 rapes in California from 1974 to 1986. He had been known as the "Golden State Killer."
In the late 80's, DNA technology was in its infancy. But now, scientists are able to extract DNA from objects that were touched or breathed over.
And in the murder of Rose Hnath, "the house was actually ransacked, so there were a number of items that were touched, that were moved," McAndrew said
"There have been some DNA profiles obtained from some items within the residence that we're exploring for potential genealogical identification," said Det. Robert Devers, with Pennsylvania State Police Troop M.
33 years after her murder, investigators are now using the science of justice in the hopes of catching Rose's killer.
In part three of her series, Jaccii Farris looks at how science is giving Rose Hnath's murder case new momentum, and giving hope of possible closure to her family. Part 3 of her series will air on 69 News at 6 Thursday.