A retired Lucas County sheriff’s detective said she kept a DNA sample from murder suspect Andrew Gustafson in her middle desk drawer for more than three years before turning it over to the Lucas County cold case unit in 2010.
Cathy Stooksbury testified Wednesday in Lucas County Common Pleas Court that she was investigating an alleged sexual assault in 2007 when she and two other detectives collected DNA from Mr. Gustafson outside the Moose Lodge in Whitehouse where he was employed at the time.
Still, she said, she was well aware he was a suspect in the 1983 stabbing death of Janean Brown, 19, of Whitehouse — a homicide that had gone unsolved for years.
Attorneys for Mr. Gustafson, 57, of Birch Run, Mich., are seeking to have the DNA evidence suppressed because investigators did not have a warrant to obtain it.
But Ms. Stooksbury said he voluntarily allowed investigators to swab his mouth.
She said she had sought the sample because the alleged victim in the sexual assault case was intoxicated when the offense reportedly occurred and was unsure what, if anything, had taken place beyond some groping.
J. Christopher Anderson, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, asked her what she said to Mr. Gustafson that day.
“I don’t remember the exact conversation, but it was pretty much, ‘If there’s some semen found in this girl’s rape kit, we want to exclude you if you’re telling us you didn’t do it,’” she said.
“Did you make any promises to him?” Mr. Anderson asked.
“No,” she replied.
“Did you threaten him in any way?” he asked.
“No,” she said.
The retired detective conceded she never submitted Mr. Gustafson’s DNA for testing in the case and no charges were ever filed.
She also said she stored the evidence in her desk rather than in the property room at the sheriff’s office because she “didn’t want it to disappear.”
Defense attorney Pete Rost asked her if she ever kept any other evidence in her desk drawer for several years, and she said no.
“Why did you hold onto those?” Mr. Rost persisted.
“Because I was aware of the Janean Brown case and that Mr. Gustafson was one of the suspects,” Ms. Stooksbury said.
In addition to the DNA sample, defense attorneys are seeking to suppress statements Mr. Gustafson made to investigators in 1983 after Ms. Brown’s body was found near his home on Archbold-Whitehouse Road and after his arrest in 2013 on two counts of aggravated murder and one count of murder.
The charges were brought after Mr. Gustafson’s DNA purportedly was linked to evidence from the crime scene.
His case is set for trial Oct. 6.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.