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Students at tables in the Cold Case Analysis Center at Saint Rose

The Cold Case Analysis Center at Saint Rose recently secured $9,700 from Seasons of Justice, a nonprofit that funds efforts to further the investigation of cold cases. The funding will go directly toward DNA evidence testing, as the Cold Case Analysis Center and Albany Police Department seek answers in the 58-year-old murder of Catherine Blackburn.

In September 1964, family members discovered the body of 50-year-old Blackburn inside her Albany apartment. An unknown assailant had struck Blackburn in the back of the head, stabbed her in the neck, and burned her lips and chest. Upon examination of the body, investigators determined that Blackburn, a forewoman at Mohawk Brush Company who had been trying to rent out her apartment, died as a result of blood loss.

Blackburn’s apartment was not burglarized or damaged. The only thing investigators determined was missing was the most recent rent receipt, which had the name “Robert Broadhead” written on it. The name was identified from the indentations the pen left on the pages beneath it.

Law enforcement throughout the years and Cold Case Analysis Center students have not been able to locate anyone with that name who could be tied to the crime, and it is possible the name was fictitiously scribbled in the ledger.

Students in the Cold Case Analysis Center, where Saint Rose forensic psychology, criminal justice, and forensic science majors work in internships, have been organizing and examining this case for four years with the Albany Police Department. Saint Rose has the only Cold Case Analysis Center in New York State and one of only six in the country.

“What I love is the students feeling that what they’re doing is of worth, and the work that they’re doing is not just homework to be graded and returned, it is a contribution to making a difference in the families’ lives,” said Dr. Christina Lane, professor of criminal justice and director of the Cold Case Analysis Center. “There’s a pride in trying to seek justice that’s amazing.”

The $9,700 from Seasons of Justice will be paid directly to Othram labs to cover additional forensic work for the Blackburn cold case. The Cold Case Analysis Center had previously provided and secured additional funding from the American Investigative Society of Cold Cases to have a lab analyze selected items of well-preserved physical evidence. An M-Vac tool can penetrate small cracks and crevices on a piece of evidence to collect DNA for analysis.

M-Vac provided comparable DNA information that allowed the Albany Police to compare known samples to the suspect list, looking for a DNA match. The Cold Case Analysis Center helped to generate the suspect list. So far, no successful comparisons were made to the DNA left at the crime scene.

The new efforts will be made with Othram performing further advanced testing on the identified DNA extract, such as forensic genealogy. Once the results are completed, the Cold Case Analysis Center and the Albany Police will research possible relative matches to identify the killer.

It could take as long as six months to get results back.

In the meantime, the Cold Case Analysis Center expects it will soon hear about testing conducted in the 63-year-old cold case of Ruth Whitman, an 18-year-old whose lifeless body was found on Sand Creek Road in Colonie, New York, in December 1959.

Last summer, the Colonie Police Department exhumed Whitman’s body, with some of the Cold Case Center students present, to collect samples from the body, hoping an analysis will find Whitman’s killer.

Lane said those results should be back soon.

For more on the Cold Case Analysis Center and the students’ work, visit the Cold Case Analysis Center website.