New DNA results identify killer in 1984 Salisbury cold case

SALISBURY, N.C. — The Salisbury Police Department revealed new details in one of the area's oldest cold cases at a news conference Tuesday morning.

15-year-old Reesa Trexler was found stabbed to death in her grandparents' home in June 1984.

According to officials, new DNA results identified a suspect in her murder, but the suspect is dead. Police said the suspect's name will not be released, and that he had no ties to the Trexler family.

Channel 9's Elsa Gillis talked to family members who said they never thought this day would come, but they're happy it has.

"I just want to say how thrilled me and my family are," said Trexler's sister Jodie Laird. "It's been a long road.

Trexler's mom, Vickie Oakes, said after staying up at night wondering what happened to her daughter for 35 years, she can now sleep.

“So many nights laying in bed and wondering and wondering and wondering. Maybe now I can sleep without laying in bed wondering who," she said.

The case got new attention when Laird appeared on the "Dr. Phil" show last year.

She passed a polygraph test, telling Dr. Phil she wanted to prove she had nothing to do with her sister's murder.

Laird was 13 years old at the time and told police she was next door when her sister was killed.

Salisbury police, the state crime lab, and Parabon NanoLabs, a Virginia-based DNA technology company, were able to use new technology and DNA evidence from the crime scene to tie a suspect to the case.

“The person identified by Parabon was a black male who was in his 40s at the time Reesa was murdered,” Sgt. Travis Shulenburger said. “The person identified by Parabon had lived in Rowan County and had been employed by a business located in a general area of the crime scene."

He also had a criminal history.

The suspect died in 2007, and in absence of courtroom due process and a jury conviction, police said they are not releasing his name.

The news has brought closure for Trexler’s loved ones, but comes with a range of emotions.

“With the closure brings the realization that she’s not coming back,” Oakes said.

“Of course, with him being deceased, I know we’ll never get all the answers that we want. But at least we have the answers that we need,” Laird said. “She was a wonderful person, and we miss her."

The case is now considered solved and closed.

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