Richard Eugene Knapp was arrested on April 28, 2019 and charged in the July 17, 1994 murder of 26-year-old Audrey Hoellein in Vancouver, Washington. Also known as Audrey Frasier, Hoellein was killed the course of a violent home invasion rape. She was found deceased in her own bed, where she had been sexually assaulted and strangled to death. Her 5-year-old son was sleeping nearby. A DNA profile was developed from DNA recovered from the crime scene.
The FGG investigation was undertaken by Parabon Nanolabs. Investigators made the initial confirmation through surveillance and the surreptitious sampling of a cigarette butt discarded by Knapp.
Knapp was convicted of a similar sexual assault in 1986 and ordered to provide a DNA sample but he failed to do so. That victim had also been strangled, almost to the point of unconsciousness. The evidence from her sexual assault was destroyed, highlighting the importance of properly managing evidence from sexual assaults, testing sexual assault kits, and collecting DNA from convicted sexual offenders.
During the course of this investigation, police took DNA samples from a number of suspects, all of whom were cleared of involvement.
Knapp was charged with first- and second-degree murder with a sexual motivation. He pled not guilty, and the case against him proceeded in Clark County Superior Court.
However, on November 30, 2022, all charges against Knapp were dropped. Scott Hinshaw, Frasier’s neighbour at the time of her death, admitted in a deposition to having sex with her on the night she died. Knapp told detectives he had many relationships with women, and frequented bars that Frasier visited. Investigators discovered DNA from several different people at the scene, including Hinshaw.
Clark County prosecuting attorney Tony Golik states “We were no longer convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, based on the evidence we have as we understand it now, that Mr. Knapp could be convicted … [w]e were ethically bound at that point to dismiss the prosecution.” He also added that several witnesses significantly changed their story.
There is no information as to the future of the investigation into Hoellein’s murder.
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Kalmbacher, Colin. “He Lost His Home, His Job, His Life’: Oregon Man Freed after Prosecutors Drop Charges in 1994 Rape and Murder Case That Relied Entirely on DNA Evidence.” Law and Crime, December 1, 2022. Accessed January 15, 2023. https://lawandcrime.com/crime/he-lost-his-home-his-job-his-life-oregon-man-freed-after-prosecutors-drop-charges-in-1994-rape-and-murder-cold-case-that-relied-entirely-on-dna-evidence/.
Prokop, Jessica. “Cold-Case Suspect in 1994 Rape, Strangulation Death Arraigned.” The Columbian, May 24, 2019. Accessed December 24, 2020. https://www.columbian.com/news/2019/may/24/cold-case-suspect-in-1994-rape-strangulation-death-arraigned/.
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