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Keep checking for old evidence

Las Vegas cold case homicide solved with DNA, earlier victim identified in Colorado 

January 31st, 2024

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — More than 30 years after Sherrie Bridgewater's body was found in a Las Vegas apartment, police were able to identify her killer using DNA evidence, detectives announced Wednesday.

In May 1991, officers with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department arrived at an apartment near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Owens Avenue. There, they met two women, a friend and a relative of Bridgewater, who found her body in the apartment.

Bridgewater was just 30 years old when she was sexually assaulted and strangled to death.

Her murder remained unsolved for decades.

In 2013, advancements in technology allowed detectives to submit the sexual assault kit from the case for DNA examination. Through that examination, police were able to develop a suspect profile of the person believed to have killed Bridgewater.

After submitting the profile to CODIS, the Combined DNA Index System, Las Vegas Metro police learned that their case was not the only one connected.

A hit from CODIS led detectives to a second unsolved murder in Westminster, Colorado. In December 1975, Teree Becker, 20, was found dead in a field. Las Vegas police said she was also sexually assaulted and strangled.

According to KDVR, when her body was found, she had not been seen for two days. At the time, local police could not identify a suspect.

In 2013, both Las Vegas and Westminster police were able to confirm that the same person killed both women. But it would be another decade before they could figure out who it was.

Both agencies, while working together, decided to submit the case for forensic genealogy to Parabon Nanolabs and then to Solves by DNA in Denver, Colorado, in 2018.

Five years later, the suspect was identified as Thomas Martin Elliott.

Las Vegas police said detectives were able to place Elliott in Colorado at the time of Becker's murder and in Las Vegas at the time of Bridgewater's murder.

Elliott was arrested in Colorado for a burglary charge around the time of Becker's murder. He was then taken to Carson City where he served his term for that case.

Shortly after he was released in 1981, he committed a sexual assault on a 13-year-old girl in Carson City and was once again arrested and remained in prison until 1991, when he made parole.

After making parole, Elliott killed Bridgewater, police said.

In November 1991, six months after he murdered Bridgewater, Elliott was pronounced dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound in Las Vegas and was buried at a local cemetery.

Despite identifying him in 2022, police said they could not 100% confirm he was the suspect until they were able to exhume his body in October 2023 and collect DNA from tissue and bone samples.

Those samples were then confirmed to be a match from both homicides.

"Unfortunately, it took a long time to get to this point," LVMPD Lt. Jason Johansson said. "These are some of those cases that would not be solved with any other technology at the time that were available to detectives."

Police later added that Elliott possibly met Bridgewater at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting.

Unfortunately, Bridgewater's parents died before her killer was ever identified. However, police were able to notify both of her adult sons and bring some closure to her family, Johannson said.

Colorado Cold case linked to Las Vegas Cold Case
Guilty! Next stop prison.

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