San Diego, CA

Genetic Genealogy Leads to Suspect in 1994 Cold Case Murder

True Crime Mysteries (Megan)

Claire Holman was found dead in her home by a neighbor
Claire HolmanPhoto bySan Diego County Sheriff's Department

On March 21, 1994, a friend and neighbor came to deliver mail to her senior neighbor, Claire “Kay” Holman, in Borrego Springs, San Diego, California. She knocked on the door, but there was no answer, which was odd. She peeked into one of the front windows and saw the home inside ransacked.

Ms. Kay Holman was found deceased in her home. The seventy-two-year-old widow and former hairdresser who had owned a shop in town for many years but was now retired. There was no sign of forced entry at her home, so investigators believed that she either knew her attacker or they were familiar with her routine.

An autopsy showed she had been strangled with a rope or cord, and her death was ruled a homicide. After months of investigation and no leads, her case went cold.

In 2003 the San Diego county sheriff’s department got a DNA profile from the evidence that was discovered at the scene. They entered the results into CODIS and the federal database of DNA for unsolved crimes. They got no hits.

March 2021, they would try again, but this time with genetic genealogy in the hopes of finally finding a suspect. The evidence from the crime scene was reexamined, and they found a single hair with foreign male DNA. With that, they were able to find one hundred and eighteen distant relatives of the suspect. For several months, they combed through and narrowed down the relatives until they eventually honed in on a suspect.
Jerry Dewayne RobisonPhoto bySan Diego County Sheriff's Department

In September 2022, it was announced that a suspect, Jerry Dewayne Robison, had been identified. Robison had been a plumber who may have worked for Claire Holman on occasion. Robison died fifteen years ago in 2007 from cancer. A paternity test was used to confirm the DNA from the suspect matched Robison’s.

At the time of the killing, he was fifty-one years old. It is also believed the motive was a robbery and sexual assault. Both the Holman and Robison family have been informed, and the San Diego County Sheriff’s department considers this case closed.

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