A 60-year-old Colorado man and Army veteran was sentenced Thursday to life without parole for the 1987 murder of Fort Carson soldier Spc. Darlene Krashoc.
Michael Whyte’s sentence was handed down a day after a jury found him guilty of the murder, following a trial that lasted more than a week. Krashoc’s family was in the court room for the trial and her father read a statement to the judge.
“Now maybe, just maybe now there will finally be justice for all,” he said, according to local news station KKTV.
Whyte also spoke in the courtroom at his sentencing. “I didn’t kill Darlene Krashoc,” he said, according to KKTV. “Nothing else.”
Krashoc was only 20 years old when she was found dead behind a Korean restaurant in Colorado Springs. She was assigned to the 73rd Maintenance unit at Fort Carson and had enlisted right after completing high school.
Krashoc was last seen between midnight and 1 a.m. after a night of drinking and dancing with fellow soldiers at a club named Shuffles, about a mile north of where police found her body. The cause of death was determined to be strangulation.
The case went cold, though it was periodically reopened throughout the 2000s, allowing some of the DNA evidence collected from the crime scene to be reassessed with improvements in technology.
A breakthrough finally came several years ago, when investigators checked the DNA evidence against genealogy research databases — the same technique used to make an arrest in the “Golden State Killer” case.
Police compared DNA evidence from the scene of the 1987 crime against registries belonging to 23andMe and Ancestry.com to track down relatives of Whyte.
Those relatives pointed investigators in the direction of Whyte, and after observing him drink from a fast-food cup and leave it behind, they were able to match his DNA to that which was left on the body of Krashoc in 1987.
“Normally we don’t keep service information on former soldiers, but in this case I can confirm that Michael Whyte served in the U.S. Army from October 1979 to April 1998 and attained the rank of Sgt. 1st Class,” Brandy Gill, a Fort Carson spokeswoman, told Army times.
The DNA recovered from Krashoc’s body also allowed investigators to build composite sketches of what the perpetrator might look like in the mid-2010s.
“I’m so happy they kept the DNA after all these years,” Rhonda Lilly, Darlene’s sister, told Army Times in 2019.
“Because back then it wasn’t as big of a deal,” Lilly said. “The Colorado Springs PD and Army CID never forgot about her.”
Special agents from U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, or CID, participated in the case, alongside the Colorado Springs Police Department.