Using updated DNA testing technology, D.C. police lab technicians recently developed a full DNA profile of an unidentified male suspect from tissue samples taken from the scene of the May 1987 murder of a lesbian whose body was found in the Capitol Hill apartment of her girlfriend.

Police said the victim, Greta Denise Rainey, 35, had been raped and strangled.

Channel 4 News reporter Paul Wagner, who broke the news about the DNA findings in a story broadcast last week, reported that D.C. police confirmed that the DNA samples obtained from the scene of Rainey’s murder matched those obtained at the scene of the October 1985 murder of another woman in an apartment on the same floor in the same building where Rainey was murdered at 610 3rd St., S.E.

The second victim, Florence Eyssalenne, 23, was also raped and strangled, police said at the time her body was found in her apartment. 

Wagner of Channel 4 News reported that the samples were obtained with a swab that was part of a rape kit used to investigate the two murders. But for unknown reasons police never tested the samples for DNA until just recently, possibly because DNA testing techniques were less advanced at the time of the two murders.

The Washington Blade reported in an Aug. 28, 1987, story that D.C. police initially arrested Rainey’s girlfriend, Roxanne Johnson, 32, on a charge of second-degree murder for Rainey’s death two days after Rainey’s body was found in Johnson’s apartment on May 13, 1987.

The Blade story reported that four months later, prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C. dropped the murder charge against Johnson without disclosing a reason for doing so. Johnson at the time contacted the Blade to say the charge was dropped “because I didn’t do it.” She said her arrest on what she called a false charge had a devastating impact on her life.

Among other things she said her landlord pressured her into moving out of her apartment on grounds that her presence was alarming the other tenants.

D.C. police at the time declined to disclose what, if any, evidence they had to charge Johnson with the murder of the person Johnson called her lover. Johnson told the Blade she left her apartment to go to work and had no idea how someone gained access to the apartment to commit the murder. Police sources have said there were no signs of a forced entry into either of the two apartments where Rainey and Eyssalenne were murdered.

The Blade’s attempts this week to locate Johnson for comment were unsuccessful.

Wagner reported in his Channel 4 News broadcast that D.C. police now believe the same unidentified male suspect killed both women and was familiar with the building or the neighborhood.

“Essentially, the identity of this person is still unknown to us, however, we can say the individual is a male,” D.C. police homicide division Capt. Kevin Kentish told Channel 4 News. “We believe him to be of African-American descent,” Kentish said in an interview with the TV news station.

“Everything is on the table,” he continued. “Right now, detectives are still doing the legwork, hoping to get more leads,” he said. “Hopefully, somebody calls in and gives us a lead that we can examine, but we’re also going the genealogy route and that may take a little longer, so we don’t want to put all our eggs in that one basket.”

Kentish was referring to home genealogy kits widely used by people seeking to learn more about their ancestry. The kits require people using them to send a saliva sample to the company that sells the kits. After performing DNA related tests on the saliva sample, the company sends the results back to the consumer who purchases the kits.

It’s been reported that law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, routinely obtain DNA profiles from some of these companies and that the profiles are kept in a DNA data bank used in criminal investigations.

D.C. police are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the murders of Gretta Rainey and Florence Eyssalenne. Anyone with information about one or both of the two cases is asked to contact police at 202-727-9099.

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