June 17, 2019

RCPD Cold Case Unit solves 1968 Gwen Miller homicide

Gwen Miller Gwen Miller

Through the use of DNA forensic genealogy, Rapid City police have identified the suspect responsible for the death of 60-year-old Gwen Miller. Ms. Miller, a Rapid City pharmacist, was located strangled and sexually assaulted in her bed at her home on Hall Street in 1968.

The closure of the case is a result of diligent detective-work spanning 51 years’ time. The most recent developments in the case come from work undertaken by the RCPD’s Cold Case Unit. The unit was stood-up in 2014, and consists of a singular, part-time Detective. Retired RCPD Detective Wayne Keefe has comprised the unit since its inception.

Det. Keefe began his work in the Cold Case Unit simply by organizing and cataloging information about RCPD cold cases. His work shifted to having a primary focus on the Gwen Miller case in 2016. Since then, Det. Keefe has interviewed more than 100 people in the case, and cleared more than 25 possible suspects in the murder.

In 2018, Det. Keefe learned of a Forensic Genealogist operating a California-based laboratory called ‘Identifinders International LLC.’ By analyzing evidence recovered from the original homicide investigation, local law enforcement was able to create a DNA profile of the suspect. This profile was submitted to Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick at Indentifinders, who was able to use a genealogy database to tie the DNA to a family lineage. Det. Keefe then cross referenced this lineage information with residents living in Rapid City at the time of the murder, and discovered several connections between Eugene Field and Ms. Miller.

By looking into Field’s genealogy, and through the process of elimination of other family members, police are able to confidently say that Eugene Field is the suspect responsible for Gwen Miller’s death. Probable cause exists to arrest Field for the offence of First Degree Murder, however, Field died in 2009.

The Rapid City Police Department has now closed, and cleared the case by exceptional means. Law enforcement agencies must meet several criteria before a case can be ‘cleared exceptionally.’ The agency must identify the offender, find sufficient probable cause to arrest and charge the offender, and encountered a circumstance outside the control of that agency that prohibits an arrest and charging of the offender. 

A variety of different agencies, groups, and organizations helped in solving this homicide. The RCPD would like to thank the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office, the SD Division of Criminal Investigations. the South Dakota State Crime Lab, PTC/GeneTrait Laboratories, Dr. Fitzpatrick, and the Gwen Miller Family for their help in solving this case.

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