When a passerby found Annette Seymour's mutilated body across from the St. Paul Cathedral, police immediately suspected her estranged husband.
Although he was never charged with the crime, it took 27 years to truly exonerate him.
Investigators used DNA evidence to track down a Minneapolis man they now believe to be the killer in the 1992 cold case. On Tuesday, prosecutors charged John Robert Capers, 65, with second-degree murder in connection with the slaying. Capers, who has no listed address, was arrested Wednesday morning and remains jailed in Ramsey County.
"This is the third cold case we have charged as a direct result of the dedication and hard work of our cold-case prosecutors, dating back to 2015," said Ramsey County Attorney John Choi. "We continue to put fresh eyes on cases that previously went unsolved in hopes of finding justice for the surviving family members as well as our community."
Seymour's case went cold almost immediately after her death on July 14, 1992.
A citizen called police around 8:30 a.m. after discovering her half-naked body near the entrance of the now sealed Selby Avenue streetcar tunnel. An autopsy revealed that Seymour, 39, was stabbed 11 times in the neck, chest and back during a struggle. She had a blood alcohol level of 0.208% — nearly two times the legal limit at the time.
Investigators arrested her husband, James Fletcher, at the medical examiner's office when he came to see her body. He was released the next day.
The couple had an abusive history together that resulted in at least eight arrests, fueled by both partners' alcohol and mental health problems, court records show.
Fletcher told police that they were separated after four years of marriage because of Seymour's drinking, according to the criminal complaint. But they still occasionally spent the night together, and that night, he was staying at her apartment in the 200 block of Dayton Avenue. But they got in a fight and she chased him outside around 1 a.m., continuing to pursue Fletcher as he walked toward the Cathedral. He eventually told her to go home and watched her double back toward her place, court records show.
A friend later told authorities that Fletcher showed up to crash on their floor around 1:30 a.m., well ahead of the attack.
Fletcher died in 2008, before he could learn what really happened.
The following year, investigators with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension conducted forensic tests on key pieces of evidence in the case, pulling semen stains from Seymour's shirt.
The DNA profile matched that of Capers.
During an interview with authorities in 2011, police showed Capers a picture of Seymour. "[He] denied knowing her, ever meeting her, or having anything to do with her death," according to the criminal complaint.
Capers is believed to have lived less than two miles from the crime scene at the time of the slaying.
It's unclear why it took so long after investigators identified a possible suspect to file charges. But St. Paul police officials said his DNA was matched around the time the department lost grant funding to support a dedicated cold-case investigator.
"We lost some continuity there," said police spokesman Steve Linders. "There was still more work to do on this case."
Liz Sawyer • 612-673-4648