Killer Identified By DNA In Unsolved 1969 Cambridge Murder, DA Says

Michael Sumpter, in a 1968 booking photo (Courtesy of the Middlesex DA)
Michael Sumpter, in a 1968 booking photo (Courtesy of the Middlesex DA)

Nearly five decades after the heinous murder of a Harvard University graduate student, law enforcement officials said Tuesday they’ve identified her killer using DNA technology and a genealogy website.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said Michael Sumpter raped and bludgeoned 23-year-old Jane Britton in her Cambridge apartment on Jan. 7, 1969.

Sumpter died in 2001.

Ryan said law enforcement used a partial print at the scene and the website, which traces DNA and family history. They located Sumpter’s brother, who provided a DNA sample.

Jane Britton (Courtesy of the Middlesex DA)
Jane Britton (Courtesy of the Middlesex DA)

“Today we are able to provide closure to Jane’s family, friends and those who knew her,” Ryan said at a news conference.

Authorities believe Sumpter entered Britton's apartment through a window, then assaulted and murdered her in her bed before fleeing.

Ryan said Sumpter raped five women and killed three of them, including Britton. He has been linked to all three of the killings after his own death.

Genealogy websites are the newest tool law enforcement are using to solve cold cases across the country, including the infamous Golden State Killer.

In California, prosecutors charged a former policeman, Joseph DeAngelo, with a dozen counts of murder.

Through the '70s and '80s the Golden State Killer killed 12 people and raped dozens in several counties across the state.

Investigators compared the serial killer’s DNA from one of the scenes to a pool of people’s DNA submitted to a genealogy and family history website. This allowed them to build a family tree of people related to the unknown killer.


Headshot of Christine Willmsen

Christine Willmsen Managing Editor, Investigations
Christine Willmsen is the managing editor of WBUR's investigations team. 



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