When a Minneapolis police sergeant entered the crime scene of a brutal murder in June 1993, he testified that he recognized a woman from a photo inside the low-income apartment unit.
"She looked familiar to me," now-retired Sgt. Robert Krebs said of Jeanne "Jeanie" Childs on Thursday in Hennepin County District Court. Krebs was one of several former law enforcement officials to testify this week in the cold case murder trial, with Isanti businessman Jerry Westrom accused of stabbing the 35-year-old woman to death.
Westrom, 56, was indicted of first-degree premeditated murder in 2020, a year after his arrest stemming from authorities surveilling him at a hockey game in Wisconsin and testing his discarded napkin for DNA evidence.
Leaning on the advances in DNA technology, prosecutors say an unknown sample found throughout the apartment nearly 30 years ago is now linked to Westrom, who maintains his innocence and previously denied ever being in the apartment.
Krebs said he didn't immediately recognize the woman lying naked on the blood-soaked bedroom floor who had been stabbed 65 times. It wasn't until he found an ID in a fanny pack that he was able to make the connection: The woman from that photo in the apartment and the victim were the same person, Childs.
"I recognized her as a person I knew from past contact," he said, adding that Childs had a different last name when he "over the years bumped into her on the street."
On one of those occasions, around 1979, Krebs was making an arrest at a so-called "health club" known for prostitution on E. Lake Street. He said Childs wasn't the one arrested, but she was cited and "very matter of fact of what she was doing there."
Childs stayed in her boyfriend Arthur Gray's apartment in south Minneapolis that she used for prostitution. Gray was allegedly Childs' pimp, and Westrom's attorney Steve Meshbesher argued that Gray, who has since died, killed Childs.
A forensic expert with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension testified Wednesday that Gray's DNA was excluded as being a contributor to the formerly unknown samples.
Rachel Klick, formerly with the BCA, said blood and semen were present on a towel and bed comforter that didn't belong to Gray. A condom left on the nightstand was tested for evidence but didn't come back with a DNA profile. She said some spermicides make it difficult to get DNA.
Chief Medical Examiner Andrew Baker, who did not perform the autopsy in 1993 but presented detailed notes to the jury, described the graphic photographs while testifying on Wednesday.
Baker said one of the dozens of wounds caused a large defect in her abdomen but there was no bleeding associated with this injury, which suggests that Childs was already dead when the injury occurred "or so close to death" that there was no blood pressure.
Childs' mother was not present during the autopsy presentation, but Childs' sister, Cindy Kosnitch, tearfully watched Baker describe the images. Kosnitch frequently stared at Westrom during this testimony, but she eventually left the courtroom.
Baker said he cannot determine the type of weapon used, only that most of the wounds were caused by something with a blade or edge.
BCA and MPD officials all said the murder weapon was never recovered.
Krebs and fellow retired MPD Sgt. David Palmer both testified Thursday that the kitchen appeared orderly, aside from some dirty dishes in the sink, and there was no blood in that area of the apartment.
The crime scene was contained to the bedroom and bathroom that pooled with bloody water as the shower was left running. An adjacent apartment resident reported water leaking, which lead to the discovery of Childs' body partially covered by the bed when officials arrived.
Former BCA bloodstain expert Barton Epstein shared with the jury the significant inventory of evidence collected from the crime scene. Prosecutor Darren Borg rolled into the courtroom the exhibits: bed comforter, bloodied pillow, bathroom towel, shower curtain, Childs' blue jeans and purple underwear.
Epstein said he processed all the items for any body fluids as well as analyzing the direction of blood smears and splatters in the rooms and stairwell. He resumes his testimony Friday.