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Oklahoma cold case cracked after 35 years thanks to cigarette butts: prosecutors

Written by on July 21, 2020

Oklahoma investigators say they have cracked a 35-year-old cold case after finding a match for a DNA profile taken from cigarette butts collected at the crime scene.

Earl Wilson, 55, is now facing a first-degree murder charge in the 1985 killing of Paul Aikman, who was stabbed to death at a rest stop along a road connecting Oklahoma City and Tulsa, the state’s attorney general’s office says.

“Advances in DNA technology are allowing authorities to take another look at these difficult cases,” Attorney General Mike Hunter said in a statement. “Just because cases go cold doesn’t mean someone shouldn’t be held responsible, even after three decades.”

Earl Wilson has been charged in a 1985 killing after investigators linked his DNA to cigarette buts found at the crime scene, prosecutors say. (Oklahoma Department of Corrections)

Earl Wilson has been charged in a 1985 killing after investigators linked his DNA to cigarette buts found at the crime scene, prosecutors say. (Oklahoma Department of Corrections)

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The office says in 1985, agents from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) collected cigarette butts while combing the scene of Aikman’s death and later were able to develop a DNA profile from them.

The case went cold after no match was found. But then last year, OBSI criminalists searching CODIS – the FBI’s national DNA database – discovered that Wilson was a match, the Office says, adding that a fingerprint impression taken from the murder scene was able to be linked to Wilson as well.

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Wilson currently is being held at an Oklahoma correctional facility for a sexual battery conviction, the Associated Press reported, citing prison records.

“For 35 years, Paul Aikman’s family has ached not knowing who was responsible for his murder,” OSBI Director Ricky Adams said in a statement. “Thirty-five years have passed, but we have not forgotten about Paul.”

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