DNA Testing Leads to Break in 29-Year Cold Case - FOX 35 News Orlando

DNA Testing Leads to Break in 29-Year Cold Case


This Phoenix family has waited a long time for closure, something cold case victims often never get.

Thanks to modern technology and an anonymous tip, a suspected murderer is behind bars. DNA testing and the latest crime lab technology helped bring justice for a woman killed back in 1981.

Martha and Jesse Winters were sisters, in their 90's, living in south Phoenix when a suspected burglar broke into their home and severely beat them in February of 1981. While Jesse survived the attack, Martha did not.

For nearly three decades the person responsible for their assault and Martha's murder walked free -- until now.

The County Attorney's office has charged 51-year-old Gary Billy Bivens with first degree murder. When investigators made contact with the Winters' surviving family members, they were shocked.

"They said, 'well I think we have a suspect' so of course we were incredulous at that time, because we'd just put it off, there's no way this is going to happen you just don't even think about it any more," says Martha Winters' great grandson, DPS Sgt. Steve Enteman.

The piece of evidence that ultimately linked Bivens to the murder? A comb, where DNA evidence remained.

When Gary Bivens was convicted of aggravated assault in the late 90s, his DNA was entered into the national database. When it was compared to the comb, investigations say it was a match.

This case is just one of many that encourages cold case detectives to keep working seemingly hopeless cases that could benefit from modern technology.

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