Like a scene out of Law & Order, investigators staked out the hockey rink, and when Jerry Westrom finished his concession stand hot dog and tossed his napkin in a bin, cops plucked the stained cloth out of the can and placed it in an evidence bag.
The DNA on that napkin matched DNA from a Minneapolis cold case and Westrom, 52, was arrested and charged in the brutal 1993 stabbing death of a young sex worker.
An Isanti, Minnesota businessman, church volunteer, youth sports supporter, and married father, Westrom is being held on $1 million bail facing murder charges.
An unofficial public figure in his town, it turns out Westrom was charged in a sex trafficking sting in another community three years ago and has other convictions dating back 15 years.
Some who know him and a number who either worked in his gas station or had kids who did say he was always “creepy.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Sperm From the 1993 Murder Matched Westrom’s DNA Found on a Concession-Stand Napkin Westrom Used & Tossed in January 2019
Based on advances in DNA testing and the advent of genealogy websites that collect DNA to help people trace ancestry, investigators had new tools to use in cold cases. The unsolved brutal murder of Jeanne Ann Childs, a sex worker whose case was filed away, was revisited.
According to prosecutors documents, the FBI ran the DNA sample from the evidence collected in ’93 and ran it through an online genealogy website which turned up two possible suspects, one of them Westrom.
“It turned out …that either Westrom or a close relative of his had submitted DNA for genetic background information,” the document reads.
From the probable cause affidavit:
In 2018, investigators consulted with a genealogist who has worked with law enforcement on another cold case where genealogy assisted with the development of a suspect. A DNA sample that was recovered from the 1993 murder scene was entered into the genealogy website database. Two suspects were identified, one being Westrom. Apparently, a relative of his had submitted their DNA to a genealogy database and cps got a hit.
Investigators learned Westrom lived in Minneapolis at the time Childs was murdered and he had a conviction related to prostitution. Investigators began a tail of Westrom and that’s when they saw the opportunity.
“In January 2019, officers began to surveil the Defendant with the intent of surreptitiously obtaining a DNA sample. Investigators tracked the Defendant to a hockey game where he was observed ordering food from the concession area. Investigators observed the Defendant wiping his mouth with a napkin that the Defendant then placed within a cardboard food container before disposing of both in a trashcan. Investigators recovered the napkin and submitted it to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for analysis. The BCA was able to determine that the napkin contained a mixture of DNA, however, the major male profile observed was consistent with DNA samples recovered from the crime scene.”
Westrom was taken into custody and investigators collected another Westrom and submitted it for analysis. It was a “match to the sperm
cell fraction sample recovered from the comforter from the bed and the sperm cell fraction recovered from the blue towel that had been hanging in the bathroom.”
“The Defendant cannot be excluded from being a contributor to the sample, yet 99.999995% of the population can be”
In other words, they had their suspect.
2. Jeanne ‘Jeanie’ Ann Childs Was Stabbed Dozens of Times, Many After She Was Dead, With One Wound That ‘Exposed Her Intestines’
According to the probable cause affidavit, on June 13, 1993, when Westrom was 28, police were called to a Minneapolis apartment building and found Jeanne Ann Childs’ brutally mutilated dead body on the floor of a still-running shower, the apartment flooded with bloody water.
She’d received 17 cuts to her abdomen, “as well as one large cut that exposed her intestines.” She had stab wounds on her chest, back, arms, hands, and buttocks. The Hennepin County Medical Examiner ruled her death a homicide caused by multiple sharp force trauma to the chest. The ME said, “a number of wounds were inflicted postmortem.”
Blood covered Childs as well as the “bed and bedding, and a substantial portion of the adjoining bathroom.” Investigators collected a blood-soaked “comforter from the bed, a blue towel hanging in the bathroom, a washcloth found on the toilet seat, a red t-shirt found on the toilet seat, and a scraping of a blood stain from the sink.”
After Westrom’s arrest this week, DNA was collected from him. It too was a match with DNA on the washcloth seized from the homicide scene, authorities said. His DNA allegedly also matched sperm on the towel and the comforter from the apartment.
3. Hockey Dad Westrom Has Criminal Convictions, Including Sex Trafficking, Dating Back to 2004
In 2015, Westrom was arrested in a sex trafficking sting in 2015, according to a news report and court records, as part of an operation by the Central Minnesota Sex Trafficking Task Force sting operations.
According to court records, he spent 20 days in jail on that conviction and was sentenced to two years of probation.
Other convictions include a 2004 weapons possession case where he served 90 days in jail, his first driving while impaired that same year; he was sentenced to six months, records show. In 2011, another DWI with a sentence of a year, though it appears he did not serve that full bid.
In 2012, another DWI. Again, the total cumulative time spent locked up is not clear but court records show the most recent conviction for driving under the influence as including a 180-day sentence, court documents show.
Three years later he was arrested on the sex trafficking sting and was convicted the following year, in 2016 and was sentenced to just 20 days in jail, according to online records.
4. Westrom, Who Owned a Sears Store, Gas Station & Organic Farm, is a Church Treasurer & Supports Local Education Programs, His Blog Reads
Westrom says in his blog that as a resident of the Cambridge suburb of Isanti, he’s a St Cloud-based-commodity broker at Diversified Crop Insurance Services since 2012. From 2012 to 2015, he concurrently sold insurance and performed brokerage services for St. Cloud’s Crop Revenue Management.
He says he graduated from Elbow Lake High School and the University of Minnesota, where he studied agricultural business/economics and chaired the regional chapter of the National Agriculture and Marketing Association. He says he earned a National Securities License through Kaplan University and owns and operates an organic corn farm in Cambridge and Minnesota records confirm he runs a 92-acre farm in Isanti County.
He also wrote that he “helped craft the farm bill known as the Agricultural Act of 2014.”
A deer hunter, Westrom wrote that “in an effort to give back to the local community,” he supports the Dollars for Scholars program at Cambridge High School.
And, he said he served as a treasurer and helped the mortgage mission campaign for Cambridge Lutheran Church.
A supporter of youth athletics, he’s raised his kids to play ice hockey and is often seen on or near the ice.
On his Medium blog, he says he “enjoys attending performances at the Orpheum Theatre in his leisure time.”
5. Childs’ Family ‘Refused to Let Jeanie be Forgotten.’ Some Who Worked For Westrom Called Him ‘Creepy.’
Cindy Kosnitch told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that her mother and she “never gave up”hope Jeanie’s killer would be found.
“This has been very hard on our family, of course, but I have a very determined mom who always kept in contact with Minneapolis police. She refused to let Jeanie be forgotten and wanted some type of closure, as most parents would,” she was quoted as saying.
Childs’ mother told the paper her daughter “went off the deep end in her teens” and was not able to recover and may have had a drug problem.
Meanwhile, people who know Westrom are at once outraged and not shocked.
Numerous people commented that they either used to work for him at his truck stop gas station or in the case of one, babysat for his family and others said they know him through hockey. And while it’s easy to comment after the fact that he may have been suspect, a number of people who allegedly worked for Westrom said he was “creepy” and many were uncomfortable around him.
“I used to call on his gas station when I was a rep for a beverage company. Always creeped me out,” said one commenter.
“What? I always knew he was a creep. I used to work for him,” said another.