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40 years later: Police solve teen’s cold case murder

<i>WJZ</i><br/>Forty years after the murder of Heather Porter
Forty years after the murder of Heather Porter

By WJZ Staff

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    TOWSON, Maryland (WJZ) — Forty years after the murder of a Halethorpe teen, Baltimore County police have identified her killer.

The police department said Wednesday that cold case detectives have determined John Anthony Petrecca, Jr., who died in 2000, was responsible for the 1981 murder of 13-year-old Heather Porter.

“As a result of advances in forensic technology, Heather Porter’s family members now know the identity of the person who took their loved ones life,” the agency said. “The Baltimore County Police Department would like to thank Bode Technology, the Hackerman Foundation and the FBI for their expert analysis, assistance and support in solving this cold case.”

Porter’s body was found in the woods near Ridgewood Road and Goucher Boulevard in Towson on Sept. 24, 1981, a day after she went missing from her Halethorpe neighborhood. An autopsy found she had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

Though investigators had some of the suspect’s DNA, the homicide case turned cold and went unsolved for four decades. It wasn’t until last year that detectives gave Porter’s killing a second look.

The suspect’s DNA was sent off lab testing and the results were provided to the FBI.

In February, police zeroed in on Petrecca as a possible suspect. A search of his criminal background found he had multiple rape arrests over the years, and police determined that he lived near the area where Porter was last seen alive.

After getting permission to exhume Petrecca’s remains from a local cemetery, police sent his DNA off for lab testing. The results showed it was a match for Porter’s killer.

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