Thirty-four years after Krista Martin was found dead in her Kansas apartment, the Wichita Police Department have identified a suspect in her murder. The suspect, Paul Hart, was killed in a car accident in 1999, the police said in a news conference Monday.
The path from detectives collecting DNA from Martin's body to matching it to Hart was long, said Capt. Christian Cory of the Witchita Police, but he said his department is "not going to quit on these investigations, and shows the dedication to victims we'll continue to have."
Martin was 20 in 1989 when she died from blunt force trauma, police said. Wichita Police confirmed that Martin was sexually assaulted before her death, but investigators said they were never able to locate the object that killed her. Investigators were able to collect DNA from Martin's body, but at the time they were not able to match the evidence to anyone.
Detectives sent the DNA to the FBI crime lab, but analysts couldn't find a match. By 1992 the case had gone "cold" — until 20 years later, when Ember Moore, Martin's first-born niece, became involved.
"I first became involved in Krista's case in 2009 when I was 21 years old," said Moore at the news conference, noting to local media that she was older than her aunt when she was murdered.
Shortly afterward, the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center created a suspect profile using the DNA collected from Martin's body in 1989. The profile was sent to the national database, CODIS, but that query didn't lead to any matches, police said. In 2020, police started collaborating with private industry genealogists and the FBI to use Investigative Genetic Genealogy to solve cases.
Genetic investigators constructed family trees to "connect the DNA" to potential family members of the suspect, said Ryan Williams, a supervisory agent at the FBI's Kansas City office. Martin's case was the first case in which the Wichita Police Department used the technology.
In April 2023, investigators identified a suspect, Hart, who lived in Wichita but died in a car accident in Memphis, Tennessee, in March of 1999.
Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett said law enforcement presented all the evidence to him. "This was a case I would have charged if the suspect was alive to charge him," he said at the news conference.
Moore, the niece, said that the family was glad that they could have peace knowing Krista's suspected murderer was not walking around free. She also thanked the detectives; they "traveled all over the U.S. tracking down the suspect's family," she said.
Then Moore took a moment to remember her aunt. "She deserved so much more out of this life than what she ended up with," she said.