Fulton County police have arrested a man in connection with the death of a woman 21 years ago.
Jerry Lee, 61, faces charges in the death of Lorrie Ann Smith, who was 28 when she was killed on May 25, 1997.
Lee was arrested last week at a hotel in Alabama and was brought back to Georgia on Thursday, Fulton police said in a statement.
Smith was shot several times in the back in her home on Stonewall Tell Road; her parents discovered her body. She fought back against her attacker, whose blood was found, police said.
For more than two decades, cold case investigators worked to use the blood to find a suspect.
Lee was identified through “advanced technologies in DNA testing,” with the results confirmed by the GBI last week.
“We had to use some less traditional techniques,” Fulton police Lt. Twanesa Howard told Channel 2 Action News.
Channel 2 also reported that Lee was a correctional officer for the Atlanta Department of Corrections at the time of Smith’s homicide.
Detectives sent the evidence to a DNA testing company, Parabon NanoLabs, which found a similar strand of DNA in their system from someone who was trying to find out about their family ancestry. Investigators discovered it was one of Lee’s relatives, the news station reported.
Police obtained a warrant to get Lee’s DNA and traveled to his Alabama home to collect it. Detectives said it turned out to be a match.
“It feels wonderful to finally bring some kind of closure to the family,” Howard said.
Jean Smith, Lorrie Ann’s mother, spoke to Channel 2 and said, “It changed our lives, because it’s horrible to find that your child has been murdered and left as if she’s nothing.”
Investigators had offered a $30,000 reward.
Lorrie Ann Smith, a youth counselor at a local church, was remembered as a deeply religious woman who was an athlete and loved music and travel.
Smith’s family and police both told Channel 2 that Lee lived only .2 miles away from home where the deadly shooting happened.
“I figured he would be long gone by now,” the victim’s brother, Jeff Smith, told the news station. “It’s mind-boggling that he could be that close for so long.”
Her family also released the following statement after learning about the arrest: “We have some relief. One chapter has closed, but there are new ones opening with trials, sentencing and all that we will be learning about the next phase of this process.”