Double helix strands of DNA and a scientist using a dropper as test tube

Her death remained a mystery for 46 years. Now, DNA evidence from a coffee cup at the airport led to an arrest

In 1975, 19-year-old Lindy Sue Biechler was found dead and sexually assaulted in her apartment. Her aunt and uncle discovered her with 19 stab wounds from two knives, including her own kitchen knife still sticking out of her neck. Newlywed Biechler had just returned from depositing her and her husbands’ paychecks at the bank and shopping for groceries before the attack, her unpacked bags still on the dining table. But the identity of the murderer went unsolved. Until this year. DNA evidence led to the arrest of 68-year-old David Sinopoli. [1]

Lindy Sue Biechler
Image Credit: Lancaster County DA Office | CNN

46-Year-Old Cold Case

After the homicide, detectives from Manor Township Police Department and the Pennsylvania State Police began to investigate. Multiple leads and 300 interviews went nowhere. Evidence was sent to different labs, but eventually, genetic genealogy analysis plus DNA from the crime scene lead to suspect David Sinopoli. He was arrested and is being held at Lancaster County Prison without bail. 

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Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said in a press release: “This arrest marks the beginning of the criminal process in Lancaster County’s oldest cold case homicide, and we hope that it brings some sense of relief to the victim’s loved ones and to community members who for the last 46 years had no answers.” [2]

One of the pieces of evidence from the crime scene included semen found on Biechler’s underwear. Detectives submitted the evidence for DNA analysis in 1997. In 2000, the DNA profile was submitted into CODIS (the Combined DNA Index System), a national database of known convicted criminals. However, there was no match on file.

But in 2019, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Cold Case Unit began to investigate the homicide. The unit received help from Parabon NanoLabs, which analyzed the DNA. The lab identified Sinopoli as a potential suspect.

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David Sinopoli
David Sinopoli. Image Credit: County DA Office | CNN

Read: CAUGHT DEAD-HANDED: Murder case solves itself after man dies burying victim in bizarre twist of fate

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Matching DNA From a Trashed Coffee Cup

CeCe Moore, a researcher with Parabon NanoLabs, tried a “novel, nontraditional” approach to narrow down the list of suspects, all partial DNA matches. So Moore looked into geographical and immigration patterns and surnames. She eventually deduced the person linked to the DNA descended from Gasperina, a town in southern Italy. Sinopoli fit the prime profile.

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There were very few individuals living in Lancaster at the time of the crime that were the right age, gender and had a family tree consistent with these origins. So this allowed me to prioritize candidates whose descent was determined to be exclusively from families with origins in Gasperina,” Moore said.

As it turns out, Biechler and Sinopoli were neighbors in the same four-unit building a year before the murder. Although he had moved buildings, Sinopoli still lived in the area. During the press conference, Adams didn’t add any other details on how the two may have been connected.

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So the investigators surveyed the suspect until they “surreptitiously obtained DNA from Sinopoli from a coffee cup he used and threw into a trash can before traveling at the Philadelphia International Airport,” the district attorney’s office said.

Long-Awaited Justice

Sinopoli had never been convicted of murder before. But in 2004, he was found guilty of spying on naked women tanning at his workplace, Sissy’s Hair Boutique. He was charged with disorderly conduct and invasion of privacy and sentenced to one year of probation. Other than that, he worked as a former pressman at a commercial printing company and hunted as a hobby. He married his first wife one year before Biechler’s murder. He had two children before getting a divorce in 1986. A year later, he remarried and had a third child. [3]

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There has been a never-ending pursuit of justice in this case that has led us to identifying and arresting Sinopoli,” Adams said. “Lindy Sue Biechler was on the minds of many throughout the years. Certainly, law enforcement never forgot about Lindy Sue, and this arrest marks the first step to obtaining justice for her and holding her killer responsible.” [4]

Keep Reading: Body of Italian woman, 70, found sitting in chair two years after her death

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Sources

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  1. “How a coffee cup left at Philadelphia International Airport led to an alleged killer in a 1975 cold case.” The Philadelphia Inquirer. Aubrey Whelan, Marina Affo. July 21, 2022
  2. “Her death remained a mystery for 46 years. Now, DNA evidence from a coffee cup at the airport led to an arrest.CNN. Alisha Ebrahimji. July 19, 2022
  3. “Police may have cracked a 1975 killing — by digging through trash.” The Washington Post. Brittany Shammas. July 19, 2022
  4. “A discarded coffee cup may have just helped crack this decades-old murder case.NPR. Wynne Davis. July 20, 2022
Sarah Biren
Freelance Writer
Sarah is a baker, cook, author, and blogger living in Toronto. She believes that food is the best method of healing and a classic way of bringing people together. In her spare time, Sarah does yoga, reads cookbooks, writes stories, and finds ways to make any type of food in her blender.
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