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CSPD Closes Homicide Case from 1977 

On February 7, 1977, at approximately 11:21 p.m., the Colorado Springs Police Department received a call for service of a possible suicide in the 5400 block of North Nevada Avenue. Upon arrival, officers found a 14-year-old female deceased with multiple stab wounds to the chest and neck area. The victim, who was wearing a blue jumpsuit, was later identified as 14-year-old Maria Loraine Honzell. 

The investigation revealed that Ms. Honzell was babysitting for a female neighbor who lived in the same apartment complex. The neighbor returned home at approximately 11:20 p.m., where she found Ms. Honzell in the master bedroom, deceased. The neighbor’s children, aged six and eight, were present during the incident and not harmed. The children were sleeping in bed when the neighbor returned home and found Ms. Honzell.

The El Paso County Coroner’s Office conducted an autopsy of Maria Honzell and reported that she sustained multiple stab wounds to the chest and one prominent stab wound to the neck area. Ms. Honzell’s death was ruled a homicide. 

The Colorado Springs Police Department conducted a thorough investigation, which included numerous interviews, reports, and collection of evidence. At the time, a suspect had not been identified. However, CSPD did not cease to follow leads and pursue other investigative strategies. 

As advancements in DNA technology progressed, several items of evidence were submitted to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation for further scientific analysis. A male DNA profile was developed from a bloodstain on Maria Honzell’s clothing, but no match was found for the DNA despite obtaining and submitting samples from various potential suspects, as well as the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). 

In 2019, CSPD reached out to Parabon NanoLabs to conduct genetic genealogy DNA analysis involving public commercial DNA databases. The blood on the blue jumpsuit was submitted for Genetic Genealogy (GG) research through Parabon. Genetic Genealogy uses advanced DNA testing in combination with innovative genetic analysis, sophisticated identification techniques, and traditional genealogical methods to establish the relationship between an individual and his or her ancestors. For forensic investigations, it is used to generate highly informative leads as to the possible identity of an unknown victim or offender. 

In the investigation of the homicide of Maria Honzell, Parabon submitted the genetic data profile created from the unknown crime scene DNA sample collected from the jumpsuit to a public genetic genealogy database for comparison in hopes of finding individuals who share significant amounts of DNA with the unknown subject. These genetic matches served as clues to inform traditional genealogy research: first, family trees of the matches were constructed back to the set of possible common ancestors using online genealogy databases, newspaper archives, public family trees, obituaries, and other public records, after which descendance research was employed to enumerate the possible identities of the unknown subject.

Through extensive research, a person of interest was identified as William Charles Kernan, Jr., who also went by Bill Kernan. Mr. Kernan died in 2010. Confirmation DNA was unable to be collected as the suspect was cremated and had no living biological relatives. Mr. Kernan was identified as a student at a local college and an acquaintance of the woman Maria Honzell had been babysitting for on the night of her murder. The investigation revealed Mr. Kernan had been to the apartment complex on prior occasions.

CSPD Detectives requested the Fourth Judicial District Attorney's Office to review the case with the Genetic Genealogy results of Mr. Kernan.  After the review was completed, the District Attorney's Office is confident the person responsible for the murder of Maria Honzell is William C. Kernan, Jr. Because William C. Kernan Jr. died in 2010, the investigation into the murder of Maria Honzell will be closed out as Exceptionally Cleared / Death of Offender. 

The Colorado Springs Police Department would like to thank the numerous units/agencies who have provided a tremendous amount of investigative assistance in this case over the years including the Fourth Judicial District Attorney’s Office, The El Paso County Coroner’s Office, the Metro Crime Lab, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and Parabon NanoLabs. Parabon was a crucial component in finding the suspect in this investigation.

The family and friends of Maria Honzell have waited over forty-seven years to get justice for Maria.  Through years of analysis & investigation, CSPD is proud to finally provide answers to Maria’s loved ones.

Photo of Maria Honzell
Maria Loraine Honzell
Photo of Younger Bill Kernan
William C. Kernan Jr. 
Photo of Bill Kernan
William C. Kernan Jr. 
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