The Justice Files: DNA’s first use helped solve cold case

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Utah) – It was a science breakthrough 14 years ago that finally brought justice to a Utah family.

The 1984 murder of Brad Perry turned into a cold case giving his family no sense of justice.

Lee Perry who is currently a state lawmaker and a member of the Utah Highway Patrol was 17 years old when his brother was murdered.

“My brother stayed home to earn extra money,” recalled Perry. “He didn’t want to go with us on this trip. He wanted to earn extra money so he stayed home to work.”

So Brad Perry went to work that night at a convenience store in Perry in Box Elder County. He worked the graveyard shift.

A stranger became upset with the change Perry gave him after purchasing beer. They got into a fight and Perry was murdered. His family, including Lee Perry, was out of town.

“We got the notifications of all notifications while we were in California,” he said. “We had to make that long trip back from California and the rest was a nightmare.”

A composite drawing of a bearded suspect was the only development in the case.

“That poster came out in ’84 and nobody hit on it,” Perry said.

For the next 21 years, Brad Perry’s family waited for an arrest.

“And the case went cold,” Lee Perry said.

But in the year 2000, blood DNA was just starting to be used to help solve crimes. Then, in 2005 DNA from hair samples was coming into the picture.

State crime lab experts tested a strand of hair left at the crime scene. They made a match with someone already in a California prison.

Glenn Griffin was living in Logan in 1984. His prison mugshot looked identical to the wanted poster from 1984.

“Oh, I was ecstatic,” recalled Perry. “I was like, this is so cool, this science has come so far, that we can solve these cases.”

In 2005, Griffin was charged with Perry’s murder and eventually was found guilty. Despite numerous appeals, his sentence of life in prison with no chance of parole was upheld.

“And I’m grateful for so many people,” Perry said at a Utah Cold Case Foundation conference.

He tells his story when the opportunity arises. He also reminded those in the audience that victims need to be part of the investigation. Speaking from his own experience he said his family was ignored by law enforcement.

“We just didn’t get communication from the sheriff’s office from the get-go,” said Perry. “And the county attorney’s office was the same way. Somebody needs to talk to us.”

Gregory Cooper, the executive director of the Cold Case Foundation said families of victims can’t be ignored.

“The closer you can be to a family, the better rapport that you have with that family,” Cooper said. “Let them know that you care about their case, that you care about the victim who is a family member.”

Perry said that lesson has stayed with him over the years. As a lieutenant with the Utah Highway Patrol in Box Elder County, he said he makes sure his troopers understand the need to keep family’s of victims informed quickly and often.

Perry said his family’s case was a breakthrough for DNA technology in Utah. And he said it is gratifying to see the use of DNA improve and continue to help many families find justice.

But he can’t help but wonder what if his brother had chosen to go to California instead of working that night.

“He probably would have been the doctor in the family up there doing great things,” he said. “You think about it and it makes you kind of sad.”


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