DNA evidence found at scene of decades-old Winnipeg slaying

Winnipeg police are one step closer to identifying a suspect in the 1979 killing of Irene Pearson, a real estate agent found dead in a vacant home in the city's northwest corner.

Winnipeg police are one step closer to identifying a suspect in the 1979 killing of Irene Pearson, a real estate agent found dead in a vacant home in the city's northwest corner.

Real estate saleswoman Irene Pearson, 31, was found dead in a vacant home in the Tyndall Park area of Winnipeg on Nov. 16, 1979. (Winnipeg Police)

The body of Pearson, 31, was found in the basement of a vacant home in the Tyndall Park area on Nov. 16, 1979.

She had been struck in the head several times with a blunt instrument and stabbed repeatedly in the chest, police said. The cause of death was massive brain damage and injuries to her heart and lungs.

The police file on Pearson's slaying is almost 1,000 pages long, with no leads— until now, investigators said Thursday.

Officers with the Winnipeg police cold-case unit said new information was gleaned from DNA samples gathered at the scene of the crime— but it did not provideenough evidence to identify or arrest a suspect.

"What we're saying is we have DNA evidence. We're not goingto disclose anything further about that," said Det.-Const. John Lutz.

"We feel now, with this DNA, that we can move forward on this investigation again, so we're going to continue to do that."

Investigators plan to re-interview everyone connected to the case.Theywould not say if anyone would be asked to provide aDNA sample to compare to thesample found at the scene.

Policealso asked anyone with information on the case to contact the cold-case unit at 986-3819 or Crimestoppers at 204-786-8477.

Pearson did not answer the door for a scheduled appointment at this show home in the Tyndall Park neighbourhood the evening before her body was found. ((Winnipeg Police))

Pearson had been assigned to work in a Castlewood Homes show home at the corner of Kinver Avenue and Cropo Bay from 1to 9 p.m. on Nov. 15.

She was last seen around 6:30 p.m. by two neighbourhood youths. A prospective homebuyer had made an appointment for 7 p.m., but found only a note on the door saying, "back in 19 minutes."

The buyer — and later, another real estate agent and customer — waited, but Pearson never returned.

Her body was found the following day in a vacant home across the street from the show home.

"We do, in our advantage, have a fairly pristine crime scene: it was a new home, and it was vacant at the time," said Det.-Sgt. Al Bradbury.

"But by the same token, it was such a random act in the sense of how did this happen without having any real disclosure through the initial investigation?"

People living in a home adjoining the one where her body was foundtold police they had heard a door open and close next door around 6:40 p.m., then again around 7:10 p.m. They said they did not hear a struggle or fight in the house.

Cross, chain may belong to killer

An inexpensive silver cross and chain with a broken clasp was found near Pearson's body; police determined it did not belong to herand suggested it might have been pulled off the killer in a struggle.

Police have described Pearson as an attractive young divorcee who moved in "a variety of different social circles," noting she was part-owner of a racehorse, put her three dogs in shows and "dabbled in soft drugs."

Police have suggested this inexpensive silver cross on a chain with a broken clasp found near Pearson's body may have belonged to her killer. ((Winnipeg Police))

She had told friends she had received a series of indecent phone calls in the months prior to her death and had recorded some of them, one involving a man who identified himself as Carl. On the Winnipeg Police "cold case" website, investigators said they had not determined Carl's identity.

Police have said they believed the force used in Pearson's murder "may be indicative of punishment or retaliation for a real or perceived wrong," and suggested Pearson may had a connection with the killer, or that the killer may have been a sexual predator who killed his victim in a rage.