Solving a Murder Mystery with Deer DNA

What moreappropriate way to crack a cold case than with frozen meat? A murder mysterythat began eight years ago, when the body of a slain hunter was found in thePennsylvania deer woods, ended last December with the conviction of 59-year-oldLawrence Joseph Cseripko. The key evidence: deer DNA obtained from a frozenpiece of venison.

In December 1997,54-year-old hunter Paul Horvat Jr. was shot three times with a .243, and hisbody was dumped in a creek in Menallen Township. Nearby, authorities found twogut piles but just one doe. Cseripko was an early suspect.

"The two menhad an altercation the previous year," says Trooper Daniel Venick of thePennsylvania State Police cold-case squad. "Cseripko had told people hewould kill Horvat in the woods if he had the chance."

When state policequestioned Cseripko, he denied owning a .243 and said he hadn't been in thewoods on the day of the shooting. Officers had taken samples from venison foundin Cseripko's freezer and the gut pile in the woods near Horvat's body. Butwithout the technology to prove they came from the same deer, the evidence satin storage until advances in genetic testing made it possible to obtainaccurate results.

Late in 2004,police reopened the investigation, and a lab concluded that the meat from thefreezer matched the gut pile. Cseripko was arrested. Last December, he wasfound guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.

Althoughtechnology convicted Cseripko, Venick says that if the then-suspect hadn't toldpeople he wanted to kill Horvat, investigators might never have searched hisfreezer: "Criminals are like fish. They only get caught when they opentheir mouths."

WAY BACK WHEN

70 YEARS AGO IN F&S

In 1936, F.D.R. was president, Joe DiMaggio made hismajor league debut, and a U.S. company discovered oil in Saudi Arabia. In theMarch issue of FIELD & STREAM, readers were advised to bring campfireembers into the tent on cold nights, warned that the Civilian ConservationCorps was threatening game habitat by building roads in wilderness areas, andtold by cover artist Lynn Bogue Hunt that New York's Long Island was "ahuge dump of gravel, sand and boulders."

WORDS HEARD

"In a typical year, an American is less likely tobe killed by Osama bin Laden than by Bambi.... So what do we do? Let's bringback hunting."

--SUGGESTION FROM NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST NICHOLAS D.KRISTOF. HIS SURPRISINGLY PRO-HUNTING DECEMBER 4 OP-ED PIECE POINTS OUT THAT BYSPREADING LYME DISEASE AND CAUSING 150 ANNUAL CAR-CRASH FATALITIES, THE DEER ISRESPONSIBLE FOR MORE HUMAN DEATHS EACH YEAR THAN ANY OTHER LARGE AMERICANMAMMAL.