Cecil Caldwell has been identified as the lead suspect in the 1973 murders of 24-year-old Linda and Clifford Bernhardt in Billings, Montana. The case was cleared by exception as Caldwell passed away in 2003 at the age of 59.
Clifford and Linda Bernhardt were killed inside their Billings Heights home on the evening of November 7, 1973. Their dinner table had been set that evening for three persons. They had both been bludgeoned in the head and Linda had been sexually assaulted. The killer had turned the heat off and opened the bedroom windows, perhaps to slow down decomposition. Linda’s mother found her the next day. Caldwell had been a co-worker of Linda at the time, but the motive for the killings is unknown.
The case was reviewed in 2005, and a DNA profile of the killer was extracted from semen found on the pants Linda was wearing on the night she was killed. The FGG investigation was conducted by Parabon Nanolabs.
Caldwell had no criminal history, and went on to marry, raise kids and live a normal life. Nevertheless, police state that these killings fit a modus operandi based on personal information they have about Caldwell, but have not disclosed further details.
Over the decades that this investigation was open, about 80 different men in 12 states had their DNA tested and were excluded as suspects.
Kordenbrock, Mike. “Investigators Hope for Closure in Solved 45-Year-Old Billings Cold Case.” Billings Gazette, March 26, 2019. Accessed December 12, 2020. https://billingsgazette.com/news/local/investigators-hope-for-closure-in-solved-45-year-old-billings-cold-case/article_90546011-588a-5931-8503-2928673d40a2.html.
Shay, Becky. “New Clue, New Hope: After 31 Years, Killer’s DNA Extracted in Unsolved Murders of Billings Couple.” Billings Gazette, January 29, 2005, last modified March 25, 2019. Accessed December 12, 2020. https://billingsgazette.com/news/local/new-clue-new-hope-after-years-killer-s-dna-extracted/article_6eb553bf-e646-5034-acf9-93699ce22089.html.
Wilson, Sam, and Phoebe Tollefson. “45-Year-Old Billings Heights Double-Homicide Solved, Sheriff Says.” Billings Gazette, March 25, 2019. Accessed December 12, 2020. https://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/crime-and-courts/45-year-old-billings-heights-double-homicide-solved-sheriff-says/article_f4f04035-2f2b-518e-bf3f-bfe36b1a3d26.html.