Seattle police crack oldest cold case

Seattle police crack oldest cold case
Sam P. Evans
SEATTLE -- For decades, two cold case murders sat unsolved, slowly eating away at Det. Mike Ciesynski’s peace of mind.

In June 1968, James Keuler was found dead inside his Madison Park home.

"He was stabbed in his own home, stabbed and bludgeoned," said the detective.

Then in 1972, Jackson Schley was shot dead inside his home in the city's Central District. His wife was taken from the home and sexually assaulted. Police did not find the killer in either case.

Then came a surprise in 2005 when the Washington State Crime Lab determined the two cases shared the same DNA sample.

"The DNA was recovered from cigarette butts and blood in the Keuler case, and from semen that was left on undergarments in the 1972 Schley homicide," Ciesynski said. Detectives had never before considered the possibility.

"Two different means of homicide; the weapons that were used were different. Their time span was approximately three years apart. So there was no reason why you would've linked those together at all.

"We were just amazed that this happened. It was a very unique situation and a great feeling. It was another step (to) find this person," said Ciesynski.

Investigators didn't know who the DNA belonged to. But because decades had passed since the crimes had been committed, investigators feared the killer was dead.

"Or else we would've had him in the system by now," Ciesynski said.

A big break in the case in 2009. It turned out the man was, in fact, in the system.

A man released from jail matched the DNA samples collected at the crime scenes. Samuel P. Evans was required to submit a DNA sample because he was a convicted sexual offender.

Lab technicians were able to determine that Evans' DNA matched the evidence.

"Obviously, then we did some research, and we were able to obtain his criminal history and some police reports from the previous murder that he had committed," Ciesynski said.

Evans had been convicted in a 1976 murder in Denver, Colo., and sexual assault in Las Vegas in 1984. Ciesynski found him in Everett.

"He was surprised when I first ran into him. I was surprised, because when I went to this one residence, I didn't think he lived there.

"It was dark out, and he answered the door ... And there he is, standing in the shadows. I recognized him right away, and I said, 'Sam.'" And he said, 'Sam? I'm not Sam.' I held up his picture, and he goes, 'Oh, yeah. OK, yeah. Who are you?'" said Ciesynski.

He went into Evans home and interviewed him.

"He had a bunch of big knives sitting right on the arm of the couch, Rambo-style knives with the handles duct-taped," Ciesynski said. "There were some tense moments for a while."

After their conversation, Ciesynski obtained a search warrant for another DNA sample.

"Then February of last year, I arrested him," he said.

Then finally this week, Evans pleaded guilty to both unsolved cases, effectively making the Keuler murder case the oldest cold case to be solved by Seattle police. A motive has not been given.

"I looked all through his criminal history, and all his booking photos. And since I've know him and have spoken with him numerous times, to me, he's just a cold-hearted murderer," Ciesynski said of Evans.

Evans will be sentenced on June 10.

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Watch Ciesynski describe the investigation: