1979 Merrillville double murder solved

2007-09-20T00:00:00Z 1979 Merrillville double murder solved nwitimes.com
September 20, 2007 12:00 am

Times Staff Report

MERRILLVILLE | The investigation of the 1979 unsolved murders of two young women in Merrillville is now closed, with DNA testing being credited for solving the crimes.

Indiana State Police said early Thursday that two men -- who have since died -- have been linked to the murders of Toni Penner and Paula Otterman, both 20, on Feb. 1, 1979.

Police are not releasing the names of the two people now believed to have killed the women, saying they were not charged with any crime before their deaths, according to Indiana State Police Spokeswoman Sgt. Ann Wojas.

The bodies of the two women, who were living together, were found by one of their boyfriends beaten and strangled in an upstairs bedroom.

The Merrillville Police Department responded to the crimes and evidence was collected at the scene, but there was not enough probable cause for an indictment or arrest of any suspect at the time of the murders, according to the Indiana State Police.

Indiana State Police Detective Al Williamson sent DNA from the scene for testing recently to the FBI-administered Combined DNA Index System

The DNA matched that of a state prison inmate who had since died in prison.

A warrant was also issued to obtain the DNA of another suspect who had also recently died. That sample was also a match.

The families of both victims were notified of the findings, Wojas said

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