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Ohio Police Use DNA To Identify Suspect In 1980 Cold Case Of Mom Stabbed More Than 40 Times
Police say that a former Marine, Stephen Joseph Simcak, stabbed 25-year-old mother Nadine Madger to death more than four decades ago. He died in 2018.
Police officials in Ohio say they’ve solved a 42-year-old cold case of a young mother who was brutally stabbed to death inside her home.
Nadine Madger was just 25 years-old when somebody stabbed her to more than 40 times in her Willoughby, Ohio, apartment on the afternoon of Jan. 11, 1980, according to a police statement e-mailed to Oxygen.com. She was found dead by her husband, Mark Madger, after he returned home from work at around 5:00 p.m.
The couple’s infant son, Dan, was still in his living room playpen at the time — just a few feet from where someone used a carving knife to kill his mother in the dining room. The boy was not physically harmed.
On Wednesday, police announced that a reexamination of the case led them to a former U.S. Marine named Stephen Jospeh Simcak, of nearby Eastlake, Ohio, a suburb northeast of Cleveland.
“I thought Nadine’s killer would never be found,” an emotional Mark said at a press conference published by The News-Herald. “But they never gave up.”
Mark added that “Nadine did not know Stephen” and “had nothing to do with him,” leaving loved ones and investigators puzzled about a possible motive in the murder.
According to police, Simcak died on June 18, 2018.
“I am angry that Stephen passed away as a free and carefree citizen before he could be identified, as well as caught,” said Nadine's son, Dan Madger. “And, in turn, given the ability for questions to be asked and justice to be served."
During the initial investigation, Willoughby Police determined Nadine was murdered sometime between 1:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m., according to the police statement, which was around the time a neighbor reported a canary (or taxi) yellow Dodge Dart parked in the rear of their apartment complex.
Willoughby Police Chief James Schultz said there were neither signs of forced entry nor evidence of a sexual assault. Nothing seemed to be missing from the home except for the murder weapon, which came from Madger’s kitchen.
“Nothing other than another knife from the same set was missing,” said Schultz.
The killer, however, did leave something behind: His blood on Nadine’s shirt, which became eventually became the focus of the renewed investigation.
“A significant amount of blood belonging to an unknown male was located on Nadine’s shirt,” said police. “Some of the suspect’s blood on Nadine’s shirt was in the form of perpendicular drops, which indicated that the suspect was standing over top of Nadine while he was bleeding.”
To investigators, the blood indicated her killer was injured in the attack.
Police stated they received new information based on the DNA found on Nadine’s clothing about seven years ago after establishing a partnership with the Lake County Crime Lab, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation and the FBI’s Behavioral Science Unit .
They later teamed up with the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office and Parabon NanoLabs to build a family tree from the DNA profile, ultimately leading them to Simcak through the use of genetic genealogy. Investigators compared the male DNA from blood on Nadine's shirt to one of Simcak’s biological children and found a match, according to the police statement.
People who knew Simcak then confirmed he had owned a canary yellow Dodge Dart back in 1980.
Authorities then looked into Simcak’s work records from his 37-year career at Lincoln Electric Co. in Euclid, Ohio, which is less than 10 miles from Willoughby. In 1980, Simcak only missed one day of work: The day of Nadine's murder.
“Simcak was due in for a second shift that day and called in sick,” police said in their statement.
Police also learned that, at the time of Madger’s murder, Simcak had other jobs: Delivering flowers for Wickliffe Floral and working with Vitantonio’s Winery in Wickliffe, just a few miles southwest of both his and the Madger home.
But, Willoughby Police Detective Gabe Sleigh added, “he had no criminal record.”
Simcak retired in 2002 and moved to Bemus Point, New York — about 60 miles southwest of Buffalo — according to police. He passed away at 79, leaving behind a wife, three biological children, and two stepchildren.
Madger’s family expressed that they held no ill will toward Simcak’s family.
“He [Simcak] was a thief, a coward, a liar, and a murderer,” Mark Madger said at the press conference. “He stole Nadine from her family and friends. Most of all, he stole Nadine from me and my son. How could he get up every day and look himself in the mirror, knowing what he did?
“She did not deserve this,” he continued. “If there’s a place in Hell, I know he’s in it, and I hope he rots there.”
Chief Schultz vowed to continue working until they could find a motive in the case.