May 18, 2022
GALT, Calif. —
For more than three decades, the killing of 79-year-old Lucille Hultgren in her home in Galt has gone unsolved. It's been the small Sacramento County community's sole cold case murder.
But now a DNA match on the victim's fingernail scrapings has identified Hultgren's killer, a transient and sex offender who lived under a bridge on Highway 99 until his death in 2011, authorities said on Tuesday.
"The fingernails were the key to solving this case," Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said during a press conference with Galt police.
Hultgren was found dead at her home on May 23, 1988, by two friends who had come to check on her after she missed church, Galt Police Chief Brian Kalinowski said. She had been strangled, stabbed and sexually assaulted, he said.
The coroner believed the killing had happened about two to five days before her body was found.
Hultgren was an active member of her church and the mother of two adult sons, one of whom has since died.
The killing happened soon after the death of her husband and the last time one of her sons had seen her alive was on Mother's Day, Schubert said.
"She lived a modest life by all accounts," she said. "Her church and her faith were important to her."
Authorities identified Hultgren's killer as Terry Leroy Bramble. He was a longtime resident of Galt who was never on the radar of police until his death from natural causes. But his DNA was on file from a sex assault case in San Joaquin County that authorities are hoping to learn more information about.Galt police
Advances in analyzing DNA evidence over the years have reached the point where what used to require a sample the size of a quarter can now be "less than a billionth of the size of a Sweet'N Low package," Schubert said.
Now, police are canvassing other jurisdictions to see if there are any commonalities with other cold cases in the region.
Schubert said that Hultgren's body was the "silent witness" who revealed her killer, though his motive is still unknown.
Schubert said the victim's son wished the suspect was still alive so he could face justice.
"I too wish this person was still alive so we could prosecute him and put him in prison," she said. "But sometimes justice doesn't lead us that way."
Hultgren's 78-year-old son, Henry Hultgren, later told KCRA 3 that he was grateful to everyone involved who helped solve the case.
"Thank you, everybody," Henry said. "It's one less cross I've got to bear and that's a big one, always has been."
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