Donald Perea – who was described as a “wayfaring stranger” when he died in 2012 in Pueblo, Colorado – was named as the suspect in the 1981 cold case of teenager Jeannie Marie Moore, who was only 18-years-old when she was murdered, authorities revealed in a press conference.
According to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Jeannie Moore left her home on August 25, 1981 to work at the Tenneco gas station at 13th and Wadsworth. Five days later, on August 30, 1981, her body “was found by picnickers in Genesee Park south of I-70.”
“Based on the statistics and the DNA, this is the guy,” investigator Mitch Morrissey said of Donald Perea, who was identified using the same genealogical DNA process that was used to nab the man accused of being the Golden State Killer. The revolutionary crime-fighting technique has solved cold cases all over the United States.
Here’s how the process works. Police submit crime scene DNA of an unidentified suspect to open-source genealogical websites. Then, if they come up with a partial match to a family member – even a distant family member – they are able to map out the suspect’s family tree. Working backwards, they then use traditional shoe-leather detective work to pinpoint the likely suspects in the tree. Finally, they obtain the suspect’s DNA and match it to the DNA left at the crime scene.
In this case, authorities matched family members’ DNA to their unknown suspect. They then built backwards in a “genetic tree,” to identify a potential suspect, authorities said in a news conference. Once they developed Donald Perea as a potential suspect, they were able to contact his biological daughter and get her DNA. They were then able to confirm that Donald Perea was the suspect. Authorities said Perea’s family member was cooperation. They praised the “gracious, gratitude and help of his family members in helping identify that he was the suspect.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Jeannie Marie Moore, Who Was Remembered as Loving & Sincere, Died From ‘Blows to the Head’
Moore’s cause of death was bludgeoning, according to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, which wrote that an autopsy showed “death was caused by blows to the head.”
“Jeannie Moore was wearing blue jeans and a peach colored sweater, carrying a brown leather purse with a mushroom design and a blue bandana for a strap. Anyone with information regarding this case, is asked to please contact the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office,” CBI wrote.
The one major clue over the years was a red car that Jeannie was seen getting in. It had pulled over to the gas station to pick her up, and she had trouble getting the passenger door to open so the driver “leaned over and opened the door from within,” according to the Denver Post, which described that vehicle as “a 1969 or 1970 Ford LTD or Galaxy, possibly with a black vinyl top.”
Jeannie Moore would generally hitchhike to her place of employment and would walk down the street to a gas station. Witnesses watched her get into an older model Ford, authorities said in the news conference. When she didn’t show up for work, the manager contacted her mother.
Jeannie was described by her surviving family as “loving and kind in all her ways. She was sincere and true in her heart and mind, and has left behind beautiful memories.” The family of Moore declined to speak with the news media.
In 2008, the case was reopened for DNA purposes. In 2011, that evidence was submitted and a DNA profile was developed. There were no successful hits at that time. In 2019, around May, authorities looked into the case again with the specific thought process of using genetic genealogy and the advancements that have happened in that field, according to the news conference statements.
They reached out to the United Data Connect company and CrimeStoppers.
2. Perea, Who Sold Home Care Products, Wrote on Facebook That He Was ‘Against Killing’
Although authorities say that Perea was secretly a killer, on social media he presented a different picture. His Facebook page is still active, even though he died in 2012 at the age of 54. He wrote on Facebook that he was an independent business owner selling home care products.
That year, he shared a news story on Navy sniper Chris Kyle. “I was always against killing, but after this story I don’t know what to think. I have a son in the Army and a daughter in the Navy. Knowing that there are men out there watching out for our troops I feel better. Mr Kyle killed to save lifes. Read the book and deside for yourselfs,” he wrote.
He expressed support for the Broncos and filled his Facebook page with religious references. “Kids with special needs aren’t weird or odd. They only want what everyone wants… to be accepted. Can I make a request? Is anyone willing to post this and leave it on your status for at least 1 hour? It is Special Education week & Autism Awareness Month, and this is in honor of all children made in a unique way. You never understand a situation until you are faced with it,” he wrote.
“The real story is about Jeannie Moore and her life, the life that was taken too short,” the sheriff said in a press conference. “…Where was I in 1981, when this occurred. I was about the same age, and I know the area well …where she was last seen…I think back to some of the opportunities I’ve had over the course of those 38 years, and I am sure it is a very sad time to reflect for Jeannie Moore’s family about the opportunity she lost.”
He added: “We are committed to the numerous other cold cases that we have.”
3. Perea’s Obituary Described Him as a ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ & Said He Was Married 25 Years
In Mary 2012, the Pueblo Chieftain ran an obituary for Donald Steve Perea, which called him a “wayfaring stranger” and said he had died at Parkview Medical Center. He also went by the name of Steve Perea.
He was married for 25 years and was survived by four children and two grandchildren, his mother, siblings, and other relatives.
He requested that no services be held. “This wayfaring stranger is content to have gone home,” the obituary read.
Authorities said that United Data Connect identified a profile that is similar to those used in genealogy research. United Data Connect then used a genealogist and were able to start looking through public databases to look for ancestry matches.
4. Perea Also Described Himself as a ‘Computer Networking Professional’
An old LinkedIn page in Perea’s name describes him as a computer networking professional. The page says that he went to Colorado State University – Pueblo.
Perea died of health issues that were not disclosed, authorities said in a news release. In one old post on Facebook, Perea urged people to “go to my web store to buy some goodies for the women in our lifes” and provided a link.
In a press release, Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Shrader announced that Donald Steven Perea was suspected of having “Kidnapped, Sexually assaulted, and killed Jeannie when he was 23 years old.”
According to the news release, Denver Metro Crime Stoppers provided funding for forensic genealogy testing to be completed by United Data Connect. The match linked DNA from the crime scene to a family member of Perea. “Further investigation led investigators to identify Perea as being 3.3 trillion times more likely than anyone else to have committed the murder.”
Perea was born Nov. 2, 1957 and died in May of 2012. He was 54. He died due to health issues. Jeannie Moore’s 57th birthday would be next Monday. She lived with her mom and two sisters, the sheriff said. Her mother has since passed away. She has six siblings. The family is “still struggling with memories and the pain” that the DNA match brought back, the sheriff said in the press conference.
5. Perea Was on Bail for Another Rape at the Time of the Homicide
Donald Steve Perea had a criminal history. In fact, he was out on bond for a different rape case when Moore was murdered, authorities revealed.
The sheriff wrote that he appreciates “the hard work of our investigators , our crime lab professionals, and the public-private partnership that helped uncover new information, leading to the identity of our suspect. Our goal then and now has been to bring justice to Jeannie and her family. And while we would have preferred to place handcuffs on the suspect, we hope kowing who and where he is brings them some degree of closure.”
Mitch Morrissey, the former district attorney of Denver and the chief operating officer of United Data Connect, said in the news conference that Donald Perea was a “rapist” and was a person with a history.
“Not only was he a rapist and a convicted rapist, he also was a murderer. He murdered this young woman. This is the third murder that we’ve solved, United Data Connect.”
Morrissey said the earlier rape accusation stemmed from Westminster and added: “He had been arrested for sexual assault where he had a weapon and he had been charged but he had posted bond and was out when he picked up this victim and did what he did to her.”
Perea served a three-year prison sentence in the 1980s for that crime.