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Police say the decades-old case of a murdered 8-year-old girl has finally been solved, thanks to DNA.
The body of Asenath “Seenie” Dukat was found in a creek bed on June 3, 1980, in the First Community Village — a residential community in Upper Arlington, Ohio, just northwest of Columbus. According to the Columbus Dispatch (which has been covering the story for 42 years) Dukat disappeared while walking home from Barrington Elementary School and was found beaten to death hours later.
On Thursday, the Upper Arlington Police Division announced the person responsible for Dukat’s murder was a man named Brent L. Strutner.
“Investigators for the Upper Arlington Police Division have tirelessly pursued justice for the Dukat family for more than four decades,” said Police Chief Steve Farmer. “I am the sixth chief to oversee these efforts and appreciate the hard work that has been put into this case through the years.”
Strutner, who would have been 20 at the time of the murder, lived locally and had graduated from Upper Arlington High School in 1979, according to police. He took his own life in Columbus, Ohio in 1984 at the age of 24.
Investigators sent DNA from Dukat’s postmortem examination to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation in 2008, according to police. A DNA profile was returned, matching to Strutner.
Police Sgt. Bryan McKean stated that, even though they’d linked Strutner to the crime scene more than a decade ago, investigators had to look at other aspects of the case, according to the Dispatch.
“We wanted to make sure all the pieces and parts were tied together before we released anything,” said McKean. “Strutner was a suspect long before we had the ability to identify him.”
Investigators identified more than a dozen persons of interest and conducted more than 1,000 interviews over the years.
Dukat’s parents reported her missing on at 4:34 p.m. on June 3, 1980 when she didn’t return home from school at her normal time of 4:00 p.m., according to the Ohio Attorney General. The distance between the child’s home and school was about 12 blocks — about one mile — according to the Dispatch.
Dukat’s body was found in a drainage ditch less than one block from her home about three hours later, following an extensive search.
Her cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head and manual strangulation. According to the Dispatch, the child was beaten with a 20-pound limestone rock.
Investigators believed she was abducted and murdered at a location other than where she was discovered.
“This tragic death shook our community in 1980, and the reverberations continue to this day,” said Chief Farmer. “On June 3, 1980, the community came together in their pain and their commitment to supporting each other.”
Dukat’s murder shook the Columbus suburb and led to the formation of the community-based group “The Long Walk Home: The Asenath Dukat Project,” consisting of local kids who remembered Dukat’s murder.
The group formed in 2019 and has regularly sleuthed around Dukat’s case, claiming they had their eyes on Strutner for some time.
“We applaud the countless hours and hard work that led to the confirmation of Brent Strutner’s involvement in the crime,” the group announced Thursday. “However, after viewing the totality of the evidence, it is reasonable to conclude Brent Strutner did not act alone.”
According to police, one of Strutner’s “known associates” was also looked at for Dukat’s murder.
“Around the time of Asenath’s murder, other jurisdictions — including Columbus and the Ohio State University — were experiencing a variety of attacks on young females, including an attempt to abduct a young girl on Henderson Road only months after Asenath’s murder by one of Strutner’s known associates, Robert ‘Chris’ Winchester,” police stated.
“Winchester was found guilty and served prison time for that crime; however, the Police Division was unable to discover sufficient evidence to also link him to the murder of Asenath," they added.
Police stated they re-examined “every piece” of DNA evidence taken from Dukat’s postmortem examination, but there was “no additional physical evidence that could connect another individual to the crime.”
On top of forensic examinations, police cited “numerous” interviews with previous persons of interest and former investigators connected to the case in saying that they’re now “confident” that all investigative leads have been exhausted, closing the 42-year-old case.
Chief Farmer extended peace and healing to the Dukat family.
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