Teen Babysitter Was Killed Decades Ago. How Police Learned Killer's ID — and His Connection to the Family

On May 8, Colorado Springs police announced that they had identified a suspect in the 1977 fatal stabbing of 14-year-old Maria Loraine Honzell

<p>Colorado Bureau of Investigation</p> Maria Loraine Honzell

Colorado Bureau of Investigation

Maria Loraine Honzell

The cold case murder of a teenage babysitter in Colorado has been solved after nearly 50 years.

On Tuesday, May 8, the Colorado Springs Police Department announced in a statement that they had identified a suspect in the 1977 fatal stabbing of 14-year-old Maria Loraine Honzell, who was babysitting her neighbor’s two children on the night she was murdered.

The suspect, who was identified as William Charles Kernan, Jr. and also went by Bill Kernan, died in 2010, according to police. No cause of death was shared.

“The family and friends of Maria Honzell have waited over 47 years to get justice for Maria,” the statement reads. “Through years of analysis & investigation, CSPD is proud to finally provide answers to Maria’s loved ones.”

On Feb. 7, 1977, Honzell was found stabbed several times at the home of a female neighbor who lived in the same apartment complex as her, according to Honzell’s bio on the Colorado Bureau of Investigation website.

“The woman who had hired Maria to baby sit at the Suncrest Apartments off of North Nevada, notified the Colorado Springs Police Department that she'd found Maria dead of stab wounds on the floor,” the bio states. “She had contacted Maria earlier in the evening and everything was okay, but she did not return home until later that night, to find Maria.”

Police said the neighbor’s children, ages 6 and 8, were asleep in bed when their mother returned home and made the grim discovery. While they were in the residence when the murder happened, the children were unharmed.

According to police, Hozell’s death was ruled a homicide and investigators collected evidence at the scene, including a bloodstain on her jumpsuit, which would later result in a male DNA profile. But the case soon went cold when investigators couldn’t identify a suspect.

The male DNA profile was then compared with other samples in a public genetic genealogy database in 2019 in hopes of finding a biological relative of the unknown subject with help from Parabon NanoLabs, police said. Authorities later found a match for Kernan, but were unable to collect his DNA since he had been cremated and had no living relatives.

<p>Colorado Springs Police Department</p> William C. Kernan Jr.

Colorado Springs Police Department

William C. Kernan Jr.

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“Mr. Kernan was identified as a student at a local college and an acquaintance of the woman Maria Honzell had been babysitting for on the night of her murder,” police said. “The investigation revealed Mr. Kernan had been to the apartment complex on prior occasions.”

Authorities said they confidently believe that Kernan was the person responsible for the murder and have closed the case.

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