Police have arrested a man for a murder that has been unsolved for nearly two years.
"We got a killer off the streets," explains Baytown Police Department Lt. Steve Dorris.
50-year-old Nataliya Shal was murdered inside her home in The Lakes at Madera on Mother’s Day 2016. That same apartment complex is also where police arrested her accused killer, 29-year-old Byron Collins Jr., just a few days ago.
Baytown police investigators say Collins went into Shal’s apartment, raped and killed her and got away with it until now.
"It was a very satisfying phone call to make to call Ms. Shal’s husband David and let him know we had someone in custody," says Lt. Dorris.
The cops tracked down Collins because DNA was left at the crime scene, but listen to this. When detectives looked for a DNA match in the CODIS system there wasn’t one. So homicide investigators in a national database training session learned they could search for what’s called a "familial hit". Investigators say the DNA discovered at the Mother’s Day murder indirectly matched Collins' brother, who is incarcerated. From there Baytown officers looked closer at Collins, took one of his old cigarette butts, ran it for DNA, and they say his is an exact match to the killers.
"Now that we do have his DNA, we will be interested to see if there are any other cases out there that he may be linked to," Dorris adds.
"At this time the range of punishment in the defendant’s case is life in prison or death by injection," explains Ruben Perez with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office.
Investigators do not believe Collins knew his victim. Her husband, a truck driver, was on the road when his wife was murdered and when her accused killer was caught, but detectives immediately telephoned David Englerth telling him they made an arrest. Englerth told Dorris this was the best Christmas gift he could have asked for.
"I had five or six different detectives sitting in the room with me when that phone call was made, and after we got off the phone with him, I don’t think there was a dry eye in the room just because of how emotional he was," says Lt. Dorris.
Baytown police say Collins has stayed in the apartment complex off and on with relatives. Collins is now behind bars, being held without bond and charged with Capital Murder.
Before now, Collin's criminal history included only a few misdemeanors.