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Police solve cold case murder of Wichita woman after 34 years

By KAKE News

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    WICHITA, Kansas (KAKE) — The Wichita Police Department says it has identified the person who sexually assaulted and murdered a 20-year-old woman more than 30 years ago.

WPD announced new developments in the cold case during a news conference on Monday.

“As this case has shown and I hope will show… we and the police department… when it comes to anything, but especially when it comes to a homicide, a sexual assault homicide, we are going to work until we cannot work any longer,” Detective Adam VanDerMolen with the Wichita Police Department shared an exclusive interview with KAKE News.

On October 2, 1989, Krista Martin was found beaten to death in her apartment at 506 South Osage Street, near Maple and Sycamore. WPD cold case records state Martin had been struck in the back of the head with a blunt object.

“Initial efforts included the collection of DNA evidence, although, at the time, DNA testing and CODIS systems were not available,” the Wichita Police Department said in a release. “Nonetheless, the DNA evidence was carefully preserved.”

Investigators were unable to identify a suspect despite their efforts over the next several decades.

In 2009, DNA was submitted to the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center, resulting in the development of a potential suspect profile. It was uploaded into the national CODIS database, but there were no matches.

“For them (investigators) to think in ’89… we should probably do a DNA collection kit on her… because maybe something will happen… had they not done that in ’89, we wouldn’t be looking at this, this point in time because that technology wasn’t a thing back then, but it is now,” Detective VanDerMolen shared.

“In 2021, a dedicated team consisting of a Wichita Police Homicide Detective and an FBI Special Agent embarked on a journey to Alabama and Arkansas, collaborating with additional Federal Agents working in Maryland,” the release said. “Their mission was to conduct extensive interviews and gather additional evidence to break the case.”

WPD joined forces with private industry genealogists in 2022 to again attempt to identify a suspect. That led to April 2023 when a possible suspect, Paul Hart, emerged.

“In collaboration with the FBI, an Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG) Team, Othram and the Sedgwick County Regional Forensic Science Center, WPD investigators were able to utilize IGG techniques to confirm that Mr. Hart was the suspect in the 1989 homicide of Krista Martin.”

Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett determined he would file charges against Hart if he were still alive.

But Hart died in a traffic collision in Memphis, Tennessee in March of 1999. Since he is dead, the case is now considered cleared.

“I think my mom and my grandma… I don’t want to say moved on, but they hadn’t made contact with anyone (investigators) in several years and when I turned 21, I had outlived my aunt and that’s when I contacted detectives,” Ember Moore, Krista Martin’s niece shared with KAKE News.

KAKE News will provide a more in-depth investigation into the case and the journey investigators took to get to Monday’s announcement on KAKE News next week. You’ll hear from Detective VanDerMolen, MaryAnne McCullough, a friend of Krista’s, in addition to Ember Moore’s advocacy for her Aunt Krista.

“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the partner agencies and organizations that played a pivotal role in this investigation. Without their invaluable support, these complex cases would remain unresolved,” WPD’s release said.

If you have information regarding any criminal case, call WPD investigators at 316-268-4407, Crime Stoppers at 316-267-2111 or the See Something Say Something hotline at 316-519-2282.

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