San Diego

DNA Tech Helps SDPD Solve 40-Year-Old Cold Case

On March 21, 1979, Barbara Becker’s two young sons came home from school to find their mom dead of apparent stab wounds in their living room.

Advancements in DNA technology have helped the San Diego Police Department identify the man responsible for killing a mother of two in her La Jolla home four decades ago.

On Thursday, March 21, 40 years to the day after Barbara Becker’s two young sons found her dead in their living room, SDPD said Becker died at the hands of a man named Paul Jean Chartrand.

SDPD said Becker, who was 37 at the time of her death and had 7 and 9-year-old sons, sustained several “sharp force injuries” leading to her death.

Becker “put up a tremendous fight for her life,” SDPD said, and her attacker left a trail of his own blood at the crime scene.

SDP homicide investigators worked the case to no avail and it eventually went cold.

According to SDPD, the only forensic technology available to detectives was blood typing. And when DNA became an accepted forensic technology, detectives were left hanging once again when the suspect profile created from the blood sample left at the scene didn’t match with anyone in the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

Decades passed without Becker’s killer being brought to justice, then in October 2018 SDPD and the San Diego County District Attorney’s office reached out to the FBI’s Investigative Genealogy Team for help solving the crime.

Working together, the agencies identified a potential suspect using a public access genealogy database that also identified family members of the potential suspect.

Investigators contacted those family members, and some offered voluntary DNA samples which were then compared to the DNA profile from the scene.

All signs pointed toward Chartrand, and his family members confirmed that he lived in the San Diego area in March of 1979. However, investigators learned that Chartrand died in Arizona in 1995.

The year before his death, though, Chartrand was arrested in Los Angeles and a DNA sample of his was taken. According to SDPD, that arrest made it legally suitable for his profile to be uploaded into the CODIS, but Chartrand died before the full implementation of the database.

More than a decade after his death, SDPD was able to close the case.

The department expressed regrets that Chartrand was able to avoid justice for 16 years after Becker’s killing and that it took 40 years to give Becker’s family the answers they deserved.

Anyone with further information regarding this case is asked to call SDPD’s Homicide Unit at (619) 531-2293 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.

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