Bite marks on woman’s body help ID suspect in 1994 cold case, California officials say

A grand jury has indicted a man more than a year after he was arrested in the 1994 cold case slaying of a California woman, prosecutors said.

Sharron Eugene Gadlin was arrested and charged with murder in March 2022 after DNA taken from the saliva of bite marks on Cheri Huss’s body helped identify him as a suspect, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office said in a news release.

Though prosecutors charged Gadlin in 2022, John Hall, a spokesperson for the district attorney’s office, told McClatchy News in an email that “due to the age of the case” prosecutors chose to pursue “an indictment via a grand jury as means of more quickly moving the case toward trial.”

Gadlin, who is being held without bail, is charged with a number of counts, including murder and attempted rape, according to a grand jury indictment filed Aug. 15 and unsealed at an arraignment Friday, Aug. 25.

Hall said Gadlin pleaded not guilty.

Case goes cold

Nearly 30 years ago, “Huss was found stabbed to death inside her Desert Hot Springs apartment,” according to prosecutors.

Blood left at the scene helped investigators determine Huss tried to fight off her attacker, prosecutors said.

In addition to finding stab wounds on Huss’s body, prosecutors said they also found bite marks.

Forensic testing showed the blood left at the scene matched DNA taken from the saliva of bite marks on Huss, according to prosecutors.

Despite uploading the suspect’s DNA profile into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), the FBI’s criminal justice database, prosecutors said there were no matches, and the case went cold.

Genetic genealogy leads to ID

A break in the case came decades later with the help of forensic genetic genealogy, according to prosecutors.

Genetic genealogy uses DNA testing coupled with “traditional genealogical methods” to create “family history profiles,” according to the Library of Congress. With genealogical DNA testing, researchers can determine if and how people are biologically related.

Gadlin, who lived just miles from Huss in 1994, was identified as a person of interest in February 2022 using forensic genetic genealogy, prosecutors said.

Investigators got a warrant to get a saliva sample from Gadlin, and four days later testing showed it was a match to DNA from the suspect in Huss’s killing, according to prosecutors.

“I hope Cheri and her family will finally get the justice they deserve and have waited so long for,” District Attorney Mike Hestrin said in 2022.

Gadlin is expected to appear in court Nov. 17 for a trial readiness conference, Hall said.

Desert Hot Springs is about 100 miles east of Los Angeles.

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