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Home-invasion murder suspect's blood on doorknob led to arrest 4 decades later: police

A Minneapolis man is charged with murder and burglary after he allegedly broke into an apartment building in 1984 and attacked two victims with a knife, killing one.

Minneapolis police say they have cracked a 1984 cold-case murder and assault thanks to new DNA technology.

Authorities named Matthew Russell Brown, 66, as the suspect accused of murdering Robert Miller inside his south Minneapolis apartment on July 17, 1984, when Brown would have been 27 years old.

Court records filed last month show Brown was charged with second-degree murder with intent and first-degree burglary and assault on a person for allegedly breaking into the apartment building at 3209 Girard Ave. S. and attacking two victims with a knife around 2 a.m.

"When officers arrived, two adult females rushed out of the apartment building. The first, Victim 2 … had a bleeding cut to the left side of her face. The other woman, Witness 1 … was uninjured but extremely distraught. They reported that an unknown male had broken into their apartment and attacked them with a knife," a statement of probable cause read.

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Officers discovered a bloody scene inside, where they found Miller deceased from stab wounds. The suspect had already fled the scene.

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An autopsy conducted after the attack revealed that Miller died by homicide "from numerous stab wounds to his face, head, chest, back, and shoulders."

Investigators noticed blood leading from inside the apartment to the back door, which they determined was the suspect's "likely" exit path. Blood collected from that exit route did not belong to Miller, court records state.

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For decades, the Minneapolis Police Department's (MPD) investigation was stalled due to a lack of substantiative leads. Then, in 2018, "the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) developed a DNA profile from blood collected from the kitchen floor and back exit doorknob," the probable cause statement read.

READ THE PROBABLE CAUSE STATEMENT:

"Over the next few years, investigators consulted with a genealogist and determined that, based on the DNA profile, Defendant [Brown] was a suspect. Investigators made multiple attempts to surreptitiously obtain a DNA sample from Defendant and were unsuccessful. Finally, in March of 2023, Police collected a disposable plastic cup that Defendant had used" to tie him to the crime, court records state.

MPD said in a press release that its investigators, along with FBI agents, interviewed Brown last month. He was living in Illinois at the time.

MPD homicide investigators "assigned to the FBI’s Cold Case Task Force have been working diligently with the BCA Forensics Lab" for more than eight years "to identify DNA found at the scene and narrow down a possible list of suspects," which led them to Brown, MPD said Friday.

"Even though this week marks 39 years since the crime occurred, perseverance and collaboration brought a resolution to this unsolved crime. This allows MPD’s homicide investigators to move on to the next one," the department said.

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