1982 cold case homicide cleared in Council Bluffs
COUNCIL BLUFFS, IOWA (WOWT) - Council Bluffs police say they have cleared the 1982 homicide of a 32-year-old woman.
The victim, Lee Rotatori, had just moved from Nunica, Michigan, and started a job at Jennie Edmundson Hospital. She was staying at a hotel while looking for a place to live.
She did not show up for work on the morning of June 25, 1982. Her boss asked the hotel staff to check on her and they found her body in her room. She had died from a single stab wound and there was evidence of a sexual assault.
CBPD said the evidence collected in 1982 was resubmitted to the State of Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation in 2001.
By then, forensic technology was able to determine the presence of a male DNA profile. However, there was no match at the time for the DNA in state and federal DNA databases.
The DCI lab periodically checked the unknown DNA in the following years without getting any matches.
Then in April 2019, Council Bluffs investigators submitted the unknown male DNA profile to Parabon Nanolabs to begin a genetic genealogy case. In February 2021, Parabon and ES Genealogy examined relationships and concluded that Thomas O. Freeman of West Frankfort, Illinois was the source of the suspect DNA.
A sample of Freeman’s daughter’s DNA was eventually analyzed at the Iowa DCI lab which confirmed a parent/child relationship between the DNA found at the scene of Rotatori’s murder and Freeman’s daughter.
Further investigation also revealed that on October 30, 1982, Freeman’s decomposed body was found buried in a shallow grave near Cobden, Illinois. He had been shot multiple times and was 35 years old at the time of death. His body had been reported as being dead for about three months before it was discovered.
Freeman’s killer was never identified.
Council Bluffs police are now working with the Illinois State Police to determine if Freeman’s murder was somehow linked to his involvement in Rotatori’s death.
In a release, CBPD thanked and gave credit to Parabon Nanolabs and eric Schubert, of ES Geneology, for their work in the case. CBPD Detective Steve Andrews and CSI Supervisor Katie Pattee were leading the investigation locally.
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