Tempe police hope new tech will help solve 20-year-old cold case

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Fiona Yu, victim in 20-year-old homicide cold case (Source: Tempe Police Department) Fiona Yu, victim in 20-year-old homicide cold case (Source: Tempe Police Department)
(Source: Tempe Police Department) (Source: Tempe Police Department)
(Source: Tempe Police Department) (Source: Tempe Police Department)
TEMPE, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Tempe police are using new DNA technology to try to identify the suspect in a 20-year-old homicide. On August 4, 1997 Fiona Yu was killed inside her Tempe apartment. She was sexually assaulted and strangled to death.

The suspect fled the scene and since then, police have worked to identify the suspect and bring him to justice. 

Investigators have now procured the services of Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company that specializes in phenotyping. Phenotyping is the process of predicting physical appearance and ancestry from unidentified DNA evidence.

Tempe Police officers say this new development sounds like something out of science fiction.

"It really does, said Det. Lillian Duran, a spokeswoman with the Tempe Police Department. "It's groundbreaking and it's exciting."

Using the DNA evidence from this investigation, Snapshot created a composite to depict what the suspect would have looked like at 25-years-old. Composites were also created to show age progression.

Investigators now have a viable description of the suspect. The suspect is described as a Hispanic male, light brown skin, brown eyes, black hair and is about 45 years old. 

"This is overwhelming information," said Samantha Hall, the sister of the victim.

Hall tells AZ Family that her family has waited a long time for justice. 

"This kind of information...I think...it is pivotal to the case," she said. "And it can really be the thing that will help provide the closure that we really need."

Tempe police also say that during the investigation in 1997, investigators received a similar physical description during another sexual assault incident that was within a few days of the homicide and nearby Yu's residence.

Investigators believe the two crimes could have been committed by the same suspect.

Anyone with any information is encouraged to call the Tempe Police Department at 480-350-8311, or Silent Witness at 480-WITNESS or for Spanish speakers, 480-TESTIGO. 

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