Outagamie County Sheriff's Office & FBI Leverage Othram’s Forensic Sequencing Platform to Identify a 1988 Homicide & Sex Assault Suspect

More than 35 years after Betty Rolf’s murder in Appleton, Wisconsin, Gene Meyer of Washington has been convicted of her rape and murder.

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Published May 21, 2024 by Michael Vogen
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In November 1988, 60-year-old Betty Rolf left her home early on a Sunday morning to walk to her job, which was located only six blocks from her home in Appleton, Wisconsin. Appleton is just southwest of Green Bay. Rolf walked to work regularly, but on November 6, 1988 she never made it to work. The next morning, Rolf’s husband contacted police with his concern about her whereabouts. Not long after arriving at the Rolf residence, police discovered Rolf’s body under a concrete railroad bridge in the 1900 block of W. Spencer Street, approximately half a mile from where she lived. She was partially clothed with a purse strap wrapped around her neck. An autopsy later revealed that Rolf had suffered strangulation and blunt force trauma to her head, and her manner of death was ruled as homicide. The person responsible for Betty’s brutal attack and murder could not be identified.

While forensic DNA testing had yet to be developed at the time of Rolf's murder, investigators collected evidence that could be used in future testing. Over the years, the investigation was revisited as advancements in forensic science were made. An STR profile was eventually developed from evidence collected at the crime scene and entered into CODIS. The CODIS search did not yield a match, and Betty's rape and murder went unsolved for decades.

In February 2022, the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office, in collaboration with the FBI, submitted forensic evidence to Othram in The Woodlands, Texas in hopes that advanced DNA testing could help to identify the male suspect in the case. Othram scientists used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to build a comprehensive DNA profile for the unknown suspect. After successfully completing the process, the DNA profile was delivered to the FBI's forensic genetic genealogy team and the FBI team performed the necessary work to generate new investigative leads in the case.

Using this new information, a follow-up investigation was conducted, leading investigators to potential relatives of the man. This investigation allowed investigators to narrow their focus on a suspect, who was identified as Gene Meyer of Washington. It was learned that Meyer had lived at an address about a mile from where Rolf's body was found in 1986 and 1987. In 2022, a DNA sample was collected and an STR profile was developed for comparison to the DNA profile developed from the original evidence collected in 1988. It was a match. Meyer was arrested in December 2022 and charged with one count of first-degree murder as well as one count of first-degree sexual assault with use of a dangerous weapon.

Meyer's trial began on May 13, 2023 in the Outagamie County Circuit Court. It had previously been scheduled for April but was pushed back due to Meyer's health issues. On Tuesday, May 21, 2024, a jury found Gene Meyer, 68, guilty of first degree murder and first degree sexual Assault, the criminal charges that were in effect when Betty Rolf was murdered in 1988. Sentencing is scheduled for July 11, 2024.

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Michael Vogen

Michael Vogen

Director of Case Management

2829 Technology Forest Blvd Suite 100, The Woodlands, Texas 77381

Michael works with law enforcement agencies throughout the United States and Canada on “unsolvable“ cases that can benefit from advanced DNA testing methods. He helps these agencies use cutting edge DNA sequencing and new forensic techniques to develop investigative leads for their cases.

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About Othram Inc.

Othram is the world’s first private DNA laboratory built specifically to apply the power of modern parallel sequencing to forensic evidence. Othram’s scientists are experts at ... Read morerecovery, enrichment, and analysis of human DNA from trace quantities of degraded or contaminated materials. Founded in 2018, and located in The Woodlands, Texas, our team works with academic researchers, forensic scientists, medical examiners, and law enforcement agencies to achieve results when other approaches have failed. Follow Othram on Twitter @OthramTech or visit Othram.com to learn how we can help you with your case. With dnasolves.com anyone can make a difference and help solve the next cold case.