Arrest made in decades-old cold case murder of Fort Carson soldier

RIGHT: Victim, 20-year-old Darlene Krashoc. LEFT: Suspect Michael Whyte. Photos from Colorado Springs Police.
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - More than three decades after a Fort Carson soldier was found strangled to death, police believe they caught her murderer.

Arrest papers obtained by 11 News detail how authorities tracked the alleged killer down. Police found DNA evidence on the victim's body, but it took years to identify a suspect. The arrest papers lay out how authorities linked distant family members through a DNA ancestry organization to identify the suspect.

After identifying the suspect, authorities tracked him to his home and followed him to work. They watched him drink from a fast food cup and then left it at the restaurant. The arrest papers say detectives obtained the cup for DNA testing, helping lead to the arrest.

Springs police announced the arrest of 58-year-old Michael Whyte on Friday for the murder of Darlene Krashoc. Krashoc, 20 at the time, was found dead behind the Korean Club Restaurant on March 17, 1987. Krashoc was an active duty soldier stationed at Fort Carson, assigned to the 73rd Maintenance Company. Police say she was out the night before with members of her unit at a local club named Shuffles. She was last seen leaving the club between midnight and 1 in the morning.

Authorities say Krashoc was strangled to death and her body had likely been moved and placed at the Korean Club Restaurant. Following hundreds of interviews, the case went cold.

"In 2016, special agents from the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID), in concert with Colorado Springs Police Department, submitted evidence to the United States Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory for additional DNA testing in a collective effort to identify additional potential leads. The testing included re-analysis of previously submitted items for Y-STR and evaluation for phenotyping," Colorado Springs police wrote in a press release.

Police say the DNA enabled experts to narrow down predictive traits for the suspect, including eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling and face shape. From there, two composite photos were created showing what the suspect may have looked like at 25 years old and between 50 and 55 years old. In March 2017, CSPD released the composite photos to the public.

A break in the case came two years later thanks to a pair of popular ancestry sites, 23 and Me and Ancestry.com. Forensic scientists found people in Wisconsin and Texas who had similar DNA to the samples found at the scene and were able to trace their genealogy to a distant cousin: Whyte. Investigators learned in 1987, Whyte had lived just 3 miles from the site of the murder. Photos of Whye also matched the composite sketch.

On Thursday, Whyte was arrested in Thornton. He was taken to the Adams County Detention facility with a no-bond warrant for first-degree murder.

"Words cannot convey the satisfaction we are feeling from this arrest," said Major General David Glaser, the provost marshal general of the Army and commanding general of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command. “I'm extremely proud of our special agents on this case led by Special Agent Jessica Veltri. They have worked tirelessly and shoulder to shoulder with the Colorado Springs Police Department and the quiet professionals from our U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Laboratory on this investigation. We sincerely hope that today's announcement in some small way brings comfort to the family and friends of Spc. Darlene Krashoc."

“There is a lot to be proud of today,” says Colorado Springs Police Chief Vince Niski. “The work done by these detectives has been nothing short of exceptional. Since 1987, CSPD Cold Case detectives, Violent Crimes detectives, and U.S. Army CID Investigators have worked tirelessly to bring this investigation to a conclusion. Throughout these last 32 years, they never lost sight of what was most important: Finding answers for Ms. Krashoc’s family. We hope this arrest will provide those answers and some comfort.”

CSPD gave special distinction to Homicide Cold Case Unit detectives Joe Somosky and Jim Isham and Sgt. Korey Dabb, who have solved more than 100 cold cases dating back nearly 80 years.

"Their diligence and hard work on behalf of the victims they are serving is exemplified in this and the many other investigations they are actively continuing," the police department said in the news release.