BYLINE: ANTHONY LONETREE and PAUL WALSH, Star Tribune
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St. Paul, MN
A thumb print wasn't enough, but a recent DNA match from a scissors allowed police to charge a suspect in a 1977 murder.
For more than a quarter century, Richard Hubert Ireland Jr. had been linked by a single thumb print to a horrific 1977 mutilation murder in St. Paul.
But the fingerprint match, discovered by crime lab investigators in 1983, was not enough on its own, police say, for Ireland to be charged with the murder.
For decades, then, Ireland would live a seemingly quiet life -- until Tuesday, when leaders of St. Paul's new cold-case unit announced they had uncovered the DNA evidence needed to charge Ireland, 59, with second-degree murder in the death of Mark Shemukenas.
Chief John Harrington said the case is proof that St. Paul does not forget homicide victims and their families. "Cold cases really are forever," he said. "[This shows] we never really have moved on... We have not given up."
For the department's cold-case unit, which works with the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to gauge the strength of DNA evidence on its shelves, the investigation is the first to result in charges.
Investigators said Ireland slipped up five years after the murder, getting convicted of criminal sexual conduct after reaching into the swim trunks of a 15-year-old boy.
After he was fingerprinted for the sex crime, it was found his right thumb print matched that of a print found on a metal cabinet in Shemukenas' kitchen.
Sgt. Anita Muldoon, supervisor of the cold-case unit, said that "touch DNA" left on a pair of scissors on the victim's bed recently led them back to Ireland. Police took a saliva sample from him and got a match.
Muldoon was there Monday afternoon, she added, when Ireland was picked up without incident at a Minneapolis halfway house for people treated for drug and alcohol addiction.
Fritz Kenas, an uncle of the victim who lives in Montrose, Mich., said Tuesday: "Amen, isn't that something?" when told of the arrest. "I held him as a little baby."
Shemukenas' parents, John and Dorothy, both died not knowing who killed their son, Kenas said.
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