LEHIGHTON, Pa. – An ancestry database is what helped investigators solve a decades-old homicide cold case in Carbon County, authorities said.
State police said they were able to identify Evelyn Colon, whose remains were found along the Lehigh River in 1976, through a DNA match in March. The match led them to Colon’s nephew, which led them to the rest of her family, police said during a news conference Wednesday.
State police said numerous agencies and more than 100 troopers have worked on this case over the past 44 years, and they credited advancements in technology and DNA in helping them.
“I believe it helps all law enforcement agencies, and it’s the future of what we’re doing in able to solve the cold cases,” said Lt. Devon Brutosky, of state police Troop N.
An arrest was made soon after the identification, and the suspect, Luis Sierra, 63, is now in Carbon County to face charges.
Sierra, who was charged last month with one count of homicide, was extradited Tuesday from New York City to Carbon County prison, police said.
Sierra was Colon’s boyfriend and was 19 at the time her remains were found. Court paperwork says Sierra was abusive toward Colon, who was 15 and pregnant with her nearly full-term baby when she was killed.
Colon was never reported missing by her family, and her siblings said the family received a letter in 1977 that said Colon had her baby and was doing well, court paperwork says. The letter also said if Colon needed anything, she would contact the family.
Investigators declined to comment on where they think Colon was killed, as her remains were put in suitcases believed to have been thrown off of the I-80 overpass. They also did not say if Sierra will face further charges in the death of the baby.
An autopsy in 1976 found Colon died of manual strangulation, and also sustained a gunshot wound to the neck.
Sierra was working as a bus driver in New York when he was arrested, police said. He’s behind bars in Carbon County, as there is no bail set for homicide charges.
We spoke with Evelyn’s brother, Luis Colon.
“Why? What led you to do this evil stuff? That’s what I want to look at his face and tell him,” he said.
Coroner Robert Miller, who has worked on this case for years, said this is the first time an ancestry website has helped to solve a case in Carbon County, but it likely won’t be the last.
“It doesn’t happen very often but once in awhile you get lucky,” he said.
State police have set up a tipline for information in the case. Anyone with information can call 1-800-4PA-TIPS (1-800-472-8477), and reference Media Release #1956.