cold case Borrego Springs
Claire “Kay” Holman. Courtesy San Diego County Sheriff

Detectives working a Borrego Springs homicide case that went unsolved for nearly three decades have identified the alleged killer — a man who himself died 15 years ago, authorities announced Monday.

Cold-case investigators achieved the long-awaited breakthrough in the murder of 72-year-old Claire “Kay” Holman via genetic genealogy, which combines analysis of DNA evidence with the study of family trees, according to the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

Holman was found strangled in her home in the 700 block of Tilting T Drive on March 21, 1994. After a lengthy investigation failed to conclusively identify a suspect, the case went cold.

cold case Borrego Springs
Kay Holman was found strangled in her Borrego Springs home on March 21, 1994. Credit: San Diego County Sheriff

In 2003, the sheriff’s crime lab obtained a DNA profile from evidence recovered at the scene of the crime. It was entered into the federal Combined DNA Index System database but generated no matches.

In March of last year, the sheriff’s Homicide Cold Case Team reviewed the Holman murder file for possible use of investigative genetic genealogy to identify the killer.

Six months ago, the team obtained an additional DNA sample extracted from a strand of hair recovered at the victim’s home, according to sheriff’s officials.

Jerry Dewayne Robison
Jerry Dewayne Robison. Credit San Diego County Sheriff

The new evidence allowed detectives to develop investigative leads that led them to name Jerry Dewayne Robison, a 51-year-old Borrego Springs resident at the time of the murder, as a possible suspect in the case, sheriff’s officials said.

Through investigative genetic genealogy, the cold-case team last month was able to positively name Robison, who died in 2007, as Holman’s killer.

The families of both Holman and Robison have been informed of the determination, investigators said.

It was the sixth time that the investigative team has used genetic genealogy to solve a cold case, according to sheriff’s officials.

City News Service contributed to this article.