A Minnesota hockey dad described by those who know him as the consummate family man has been arrested in the cold case killing of a woman found stabbed to death in her home, officials said.
Jerry Arnold Westrom, 52, was charged in Hennepin County District Court in the 1993 murder of Jeanne Ann Childs, who was 35 years old when she was found dead in her shower.
Police called to Childs' Minneapolis building because a neighbor saw water coming from her apartment made the grim discovery on June 13, 1993, according to a criminal complaint. Childs, who investigators said was a sex worker, was dead in the shower, where the water was running. She was wearing only socks and had been stabbed dozens of times, including several times after she died, police said.
Investigators found DNA evidence they said belonged to Childs' killer in a number of places in the apartment, including on a washcloth, towel and comforter they said came from the killer. They also appealed to the public to come forward with any information they may have, saying the murderer himself may have sustained injuries during the attack.
“The person or suspect we’re looking for could possibly [have] been injured bad enough to seek medical attention,” police said at the time.
But the case eventually went cold.
Minneapolis police decided to revisit the case in 2015 in the hope that advances in DNA testing would aid them in their search for Childs’ murderer. Samples from the scene were sent to the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) and a private DNA company that had experience assisting in assisting law enforcement on another cold case. Then in 2018, the FBI ran the sample through a genealogy website.
That search resulted in two potential suspects to consider, including Westrom, who was believed to have either submitted DNA for genetic background information himself, or had a close relative do so, the complaint said.
Police began following Westrom in January in an effort to collect a DNA sample without his realizing, and they got their chance when the married father-of-two wiped his mouth with a napkin and tossed it in a trash can at a hockey game. Investigators recovered the napkin and had it tested against the DNA found at the crime scene.
The DNA came back a match, the BCA said. Westrom, who was 27 at the time of the killing, was arrested Monday at his Waite Park office and charged with murder. He has since denied ever being inside Childs’ apartment or having sex with any woman in Minneapolis in 1993, according to the criminal complaint.
"When confronted with the DNA evidence available to investigators at the time of arrest, the defendant indicated he had no knowledge as to why his DNA would be present at the scene," the complaint said.
Westrom lived in the Twin Cities area when Childs was killed and moved away about six months after her death, police said. He went on to move to Isanti, get married and have two children, and was very involved in youth’s athletics, especially organized hockey.
His criminal history includes several convictions for drunken driving, as well as a conviction for trying to hire a sex worker in Stearns County. He saw his probation for that charge end last year.
He is being held on $1 million bail. InsideEdition.com has reached out to Westrom's attorney for comment.
Westrom’s arrest came as a relief to Childs’ family, who said they had always held out hope that her killer would be brought to justice.
“This has been very hard on our family, of course, but I have a very determined mom who always kept in contact with Minneapolis police,” Childs’ sister, Cindy Kosnitch, told the Star Tribune. “She refused to let Jeanie be forgotten and wanted some type of closure, as most parents would.”