Charges in old double homicide
The families of Carrie Richter and Dustin Baity have waited almost 15 years for authorities to solve their murders. Now, a Hennepin County Grand Jury has indicted a former Minneapolis man on four counts of first-degree murder, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman told a news conference Wednesday.
Jason Richard Preston, 35, who is in a California prison until 2038 for a home invasion, also was indicted on two counts of second-degree murder. Two of the first-degree murder charges were for murder while committing an aggravated robbery or burglary.
Freeman and Minneapolis police are asking for the public’s help in the continuing investigation. Police would like to interview anyone who can provide details of Preston’s whereabouts on Dec. 24, 1998, the day of the murder, or how he might have met the couple. Anyone with that information is asked to call Minneapolis Police Sgt. Christopher Karakostas at 612-490-2991.
“I’m proud to be here with the Baity and Richter families, the Minneapolis Police Department and the FBI to announce this indictment,” Freeman told the news conference. “This case was thoroughly investigated in 1998 and ’99 but there was insufficient evidence to bring a charge. Subsequently, the police department’s cold case unit worked on it and they brought additional evidence for DNA testing. Finally, there was a match with Mr. Preston and we were able to take it directly to the grand jury.”
Richter, 18, and Baity, 20, worked at a glass factory and lived together in an apartment at 1010 23rd Ave. NE. Both had been strangled and Richter also had been stabbed. Police were unable to come up with a suspect and the investigation stalled.
In 2009, the Minneapolis Police Department (and later the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office) received federal grants to pay for DNA testing of evidence from older, unsolved cases. In 1999, some evidence from the scene was tested for DNA, but only the victims’ DNA was found. In early 2010, Minneapolis Police Sgt.Karakostas, who was working the case after the police department decided to look at several cold cases, submitted 13 items to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for testing.
In July of that year, the BCA report indicated that there was a blood drop on one of the items which belonged to an unknown man. A check of the Minnesota and national DNA databases, produced no matches.
However, the BCA scientists continued to periodically check the state and national databases and on March 6, 2013, they reported a match with a man who had been arrested in California. Karakostas traveled to the California prison and obtained a DNA sample from Preston and returned to Minnesota. The lab work confirmed the match and also found more evidence of Preston’s DNA on other pieces of evidence that Karakostas brought to the lab.
“We all offer our condolences to the family, and yet, there is satisfaction to know some finality and justice was brought to the family,” Freeman said.
Dawn Baity, speaking on behalf of a number of members of the Baity and Richter families, said that they appreciated the efforts of everyone who continued to work on the case.
“I wanted to represent my brother Dustin Baity and his girlfriend and my friend, Carrie Richter,” Baity said. “Nothing will ever change what happened or all the lost memories we should have had.”
The FBI assisted in the case and Supervisory Agent Rob Woldt and Special Agent Karie Gibson also were part of the news conference.
No extradition hearing has been set to return Preston to Minnesota.
Watch the press conference.