Suspect charged in 1991 cold case murder

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Donald Clifton Jenkins, Jr. has been charged with the 1991 murder of 20-year-old Belinda Thompson, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Thursday.  

Jenkins, 56, of South St. Paul, was charged with second-degree murder and is expected to make his first appearance tomorrow afternoon.

“We appreciate the tenacious detective work of the Minneapolis Police Department and the FBI on this case and intend to bring Mr. Jenkins to justice,” said Freeman. “Although it does not change what happened to Ms. Thompson, we hope it will bring some closure to her family who have suffered with not knowing who murdered her for so many years.”

According to the criminal complaint, on Dec. 19, 1991 police were called to an apartment in the 2800 block of Grand Ave. S. on the report of a homicide. Officers found the deceased body of Ms. Thompson on the floor of her bedroom. An autopsy was conducted and the medical examiner found seven stab wounds to the front of her body and four stab wounds to her back.  

A search of the apartment was conducted and officers noticed that a drawer in the kitchen was ajar and the knife tray was pulled out. One of the knives from the set was missing. In the living room, officers found a bloody knife that had been tucked in between the couch cushions and it matched the set.

In 1991, officers learned that Jenkins, a friend of Ms. Thompson’s boyfriend, was a possible suspect. Interviewed at the time of the murder, Jenkins said that he met Ms. Thompson through her boyfriend and had been to the apartment previously. He claimed that he had loaned his car to her boyfriend the day before the murder and the boyfriend returned it to him the next day. Jenkins said later that afternoon, he saw the boyfriend again and gave him a ride and then spoke to him that evening. Jenkins said he learned of Ms. Thompson’s murder the following day, according to the complaint.

The case went cold in 1992. In 2008, homicide detectives submitted evidence, including a bloody washcloth, to the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for DNA testing, which had not been previously available. In 2010, Jenkins was extradited from Louisiana to Minnesota. Upon arrival, officers obtained a DNA sample from him by search warrant and interviewed him again. They learned that Jenkins’ DNA could not be excluded from the mixture of DNA on the washcloth, but 99.1% of the population could be.
 
Jenkins story in 2010 was different from when first interviewed shortly after the murder. When detectives asked whether his DNA would be on the washcloth, Jenkins responded, “Let’s find out!” Shortly after this interview, Jenkins called detectives and claimed that he had once cut his knuckle working on a vehicle at Ms. Thompson’s apartment.  

On December 18 of this year, the day before the 27th anniversary of the murder, detectives interviewed Jenkins again. After initially denying his involvement, he admitted that he killed Ms. Thompson. He blurted out, “My DNA is there, I did it,” according to the complaint.  

Jenkins said he wasn’t supposed to go to Ms. Thompson’s apartment when her boyfriend wasn’t there. He stated he was “chasing dope” and didn't think anyone would be home. He said that while inside the apartment, he grabbed a knife off the table. He stated that he hit Ms. Thompson and she fell to the ground. He claimed that he just blacked out. He recounted that he stabbed her because he thought her boyfriend would kill him for coming over to the apartment alone.  

Criminal Complaint (PDF)