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December 06, 2022
On March 21, 1998, a Washington father returned to his home on Grove Street in Snohomish County when he discovered the body of his teenage daughter.
The man had last seen his daughter, 19-year-old Jennifer Brinkman, several days earlier the previous weekend, before he left for a vacation in California with his girlfriend.
Jennifer’s body was discovered in her bedroom, saturated in blood, and it was clear from her injuries that she had been the victim of a homicide.
The killer had left his DNA behind at the scene; however, forensic technology was not advanced enough at the time to identify the perpetrator. The DNA was collected from the murder weapon, an axe that was recovered from the scene, and the unknown sample was labelled as: INDIVIDUAL A.
An autopsy revealed that the teenager had been dead no longer than a day at the time her body was discovered, and that the death was determined to be a homicide by “chop wounds to the neck.”
Jennifer was known to frequent dating websites, as well as using chatlines, popular with bored teens in the 1990s. She was always looking to meet new friends and would often converse with people she met around town and at her local library. Jennifer had been writing letters to one man in particular, a man named Jeffrey Paul Premo, whom investigators believe she met on one of the chatlines she used.
Chatlines were popular at the time, and often free for women. Users of chatline services would listen to pre-recorded messages made by other users and connect with somebody they wanted to talk to.
Detective Wade Rediger described the letter as follows: "cordial in nature but there were strong indications there had been at least meetings prior based on the verbiage of the letter," adding, "They talked about some personal matters both on Jennifer's part and on the suspect's part."
At the time of Jennifer's murder, Premo, who would have been around 28 years old when the murder occurred, worked and resided in the east Puget Sound area in Washington. Jennifer’s mother lived around 3.5 miles from the suspect at the time, however, it is unclear if he was known to the family or not.
Although investigators revealed that the letters exchanged between the two suggested that they had either met in person before, or that Premo had attempted to meet the teenager, when police initially brought the suspect in for questioning in 1998, he completely denied knowing Jennifer Brinkman.
Premo remained a person of interest over the years, but without any kind of evidence to link him to the murder, he remained a free man and the case remained cold. Jennifer’s family were heartbroken and frustrated with the lack of closure in the case, and the community felt uneasy that whoever had embedded an axe into a teenage girl’s neck was still out there, disguised in the population. Jennifer’s home, which was situated on a main road that many members of the community drove by daily, stood as a reminder that her killer was still out there somewhere.
As cold case after cold case gets solved with the help of recent advancements in DNA technology, coupled with an increase in people entering their DNA profiles into public genealogy databases, Jeffrey Paul Premo must have known it would only be a matter of time before investigators were able to process the sample that he left behind in the slain girl’s bedroom more than two decades ago, and come knocking at his door.
In 2020, Parabon Nano labs, an outside agency based in Virginia, tested the Individual A sample left behind on the murder weapon and generated a DNA profile of the killer. From there, police obtained a warrant to obtain a sample of Premo's DNA, which media outlets report the suspect gave willingly. Premo’s DNA was then sent to a Washington State crime lab- both samples were a match, directly linking Jeffrey Paul Premo to the crime.
The Marysville Police Department were relieved to have finally identified Jennifer's killer, and arrested Premo on November 28, 2022.
In a press release, the Marysville Police Department said: "The arrested suspect was one of several individuals detectives focused on throughout the years, and ultimately, the advancement of scientific DNA technology, including genetic genealogy- led to his arrest."
As for a motive to the murder, police say they do not know at this time. Premo invoked his constitutional rights and as had not given a motivation for the murder.
When asked what the suspect had been doing since the murder, Maryland Police responded: “He’s either been working or being fairly reclusive at home.”
When asked if the suspect had committed any previous similar crimes or was a suspect in any other cases, Police said it appeared to be a “one off.”
Police Chief Erik Skairpon of the Marysville police said in a statement about the case: “Solving this case has been at the top of the priority list of the Marysville Police Department for the past 24-plus years. We never gave up or put this on a shelf. It was continuously being investigated, with the belief that we would one day be able to bring some level of closure for the family and justice for Jennifer.”
Jennifer’s father died in 2013, however, her mother, who is still living, was informed of the arrest, and was reportedly overwhelmed with emotion at the news that her daughters murder has finally been solved and her killed can be brought to justice.
Jeffrey Paul Premo is currently, at the time of writing, being held at the Snohomish County Jail on a $250,000 bond for first-degree murder.
January 17, 2023