AURORA, Colo. -- Police say they have solved the 1996 homicide of a woman in Aurora using blood samples from the crime scene.
The victim, 25-year-old Tangie Sims, was violently assaulted and stabbed to death. Police found her body in an alley on Oct. 24, 1996 in the 1200 block of Iola Street in Aurora.
Aurora police say DNA analysis identified the suspect as Wesley Backman, a truck driver who died in 2008. He would have been 41 years old at the time of the crime. Police say Backman lived in Aurora, among other places throughout his life.
An initial police investigation in 1996 revealed Sims was last seen walking to a tractor trailer. Police say the suspect had cut himself while committing the crime, leaving blood drops that were collected as evidence.
Police credited the 2019 break in the case to "advancements in DNA combined with genealogical research." A possible suspect was identified by comparing the blood sample to known DNA from a close relative, at the United Data Connect.
Detectives from Aurora's Major Crimes Homicide Unit traveled to multiple states, locating a member of Backman's immediate family who provided a DNA sample. This allowed the lab to link Backman to the crime.
Police are working with other departments around to country to determine if Backman was responsible for any other crimes.
Metro Denver Crime Stoppers covered some of the costs of Aurora's investigation. The organization says it was money well spent.
"Whether it's paying on a tip, or it solves a crime, or being proactive and paying for research that helps detectives identify suspects, then it's the same thing," said Mike Mills, board president of Crime Stoppers.
"With this, there was no evidence. We had to had to really look at the DNA and the family genealogy they used in this case," APD Interim Chief Vanessa Wilson said.
Mitch Morrisey, the co-founder of United Data Connect, said the technology is still very new.
"Remember, this has only been around for a couple years. The Golden State Killer was the first time this technology was used," he said.