Family members react to cold case with South Dakota ties solved in Vancouver

Local News

A 25-year old cold case with South Dakota ties has been solved– all thanks to DNA evidence.

Audrey Hoellein lived in Northville, near Aberdeen, before moving to Lead then out of state. In 1994 Hoellein was killed at her Vancouver apartment when she was just 26 years old.

The case went cold for years.

Then, thanks to advances in technology, DNA from a cigarette butt found at the scene of the crime was sent to a specialized lab that uses public genealogy databases to find genetic relatives. That led detectives to Richard E. Knapp who they recently arrested in connection with the murder. Hoellein still has family members in the South Dakota.

Duane and Rose Hoellein still live in the Northville area. For many years, they’ve been devastated by the loss of their niece. 

“It’s been very hard, it’s been hard on her dad, her mom, us and her son had to grow up without a mother,” Audrey’s uncle, Duane Hoellein said.

The Hoelliens remember Audrey as a sweet and shy person. Their son Jeff and Audrey got along well. 

“We were across the road at the time and her and Jeff played together all the time, and then she lived here until she was in 4th grade and them she moved out to Lead,” Audrey’s aunt, Rose Hoellein said.

They still remember the day they found out what happened to Audrey.

“We were in Nebraska and we were harvesting and had just got done and Bill called and we couldn’t believe it, it was unreal, almost like a bad dream,” Duane Hoellein said.

Now, 25 years later, the Hoelleins are finally getting some answers.

“We couldn’t believe it, we couldn’t believe it after 25 years, we thought it’s done, they will never find him and after 25 years, with the DNA and those great detectives, they found him,” Rose Hoellein said.

News they have been waiting for for quarter of a century.

“We’re elated, we’re just so happy there’s been an arrest,” Rose Hoellein said.

Now Audrey’s family is praying for a conviction. 

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