Appleton, WI

Genetic Genealogy Used to Solve 1988 Murder and Assault of Betty Rolf

True Crime Mysteries (Megan)

Gene Meyer became a suspect in 2022 after authorities narrowed down the DNA to two brothers

During a blizzard on November 6, 1988, Betty Rolf decided to walk to work at the Appleton County Aire Banquet Room in Appleton, Wisconsin. It wasn’t her normal routine to walk to work, but sixty-year-old Betty didn’t like to drive in the snow, and her son wasn’t able to give her a ride that morning.

It shouldn’t have taken her long, it was only ten blocks from her home, but she never arrived.

She was reported missing when her husband discovered she hadn’t returned home from work, and then he learned she had never arrived that day. Her body was found covered in gravel and partially clad under a railroad bridge. An autopsy showed that she had been strangled to death, sexually assaulted, and beaten.

The murder case shocked the community. Betty had been well known in the area, she was well-liked, and no one could imagine anyone setting out to hurt her. That, paired with the differentiation between her regular routine and the snowstorm, led law enforcement to believe it was a crime of opportunity.

DNA evidence was collected at the time of the initial investigation, but all that could be done was test it against suspects they had, which had eliminated all. Eventually, the case went cold.

In 2001, the DNA was input into CODIS, the federal database, and the state database, but nothing came up. In 2019, the case was reopened in hopes of using genetic genealogy to find a suspect. In 2022, they narrowed the DNA down to two brothers.

Law enforcement approached one of the brothers, who cooperated with police but believed his brother to be deceased. He supplied a DNA sample, which eliminated him as a suspect. Leading law enforcement to believe the sixty-six-year-old Gene C Meyer of Tacoma, Washington.

In the 80s, Meyer lived within a mile of Betty Rolf and left Wisconsin shortly after her murder, relocating to Washington.

Law enforcement in both states worked together to locate Meyer, he was put under surveillance, and law enforcement was able to collect a DNA sample from the handle of his truck. He was arrested once it was positively matched with the suspect’s DNA. He entered a plea of not guilty in April 2023, and no trial date has been set at this time. Meyer is due back in court in July. He is being held in custody, and his bond was set for two million dollars.

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