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Battle Creek Police: Blood sample re-tested using new technology solves 1988 cold case

Gayle Barrus
Posted at 4:50 PM, Feb 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-01 17:40:03-05

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — A more than 30-year-old cold case murder in Battle Creek has now been solved after a piece of evidence was tested with new technology.

An old blood sample was collected from one of the suspect's in the murder and rape case of Gayle Barrus back in 1988, a decision that has now paid off.

"It was a very complex investigation, and really, it was just the due diligence of a detective picking it back up and taking a second look at a case that had kind of been, you know, put on the shelf for many years," said Battle Creek Police Department Detective Sergeant Joel Case.

It was on an evidence shelf in the Calhoun County Sheriff's Office. That's where a blood sample has sat for the last 32 years taken from a suspect named Roger Plato.

He was suspected in the 1988 murder and rape of Gayle Barrus, but evidence back then indicated he wasn't the right guy. Now, that's changed.

"We had already been told that he wasn’t a contributor. It goes to the lab and sure enough, it actually was the contributor for the person who had sexually assaulted and ultimately killed Mrs. Barrus," said Detective Sergeant Case.

Investigators took that sample from Plato after he was killed in an officer-involved shooting, before Barrus' body was even found.

At the time, technology prevented them from making the match.

"When his blood was sent in to be compared to evidence that was left behind by the deceased, they couldn’t determine who the major and who was the minor contributor to the blood or to the DNA itself," said Detective Sergeant Case.

That is until now, when results from the lab are more precise.

The Calhoun County Sheriff's Office said the sample was found during a regular audit of evidence and sent in for that new testing.

Battle Creek Police said this gives them hope for future cold cases.

"If we’ve got something that we believe we can solve, especially with modern day technology and advancements, that is something we will definitely take a second look at and possibly reopen," said Detective Sergeant Case.

While other cold cases would proceed to a trail to determine if the suspect is guilty, Plato has been deceased so they're unable to do that.

However, they're not finished looking at the blood work results to see if Plato has any other involvement in additional cases they have yet to solve.