Bail reduced for Isanti businessman charged in 1993 cold case murder

An Isanti, Minnesota businessman and hockey dad charged in the 1993 cold case murder of Jeanne Childs was back in court Wednesday to argue for a lower bail. 

In court, Jerry Westrom's attorney, Steve Meshbesher, successfully argued to lower bail to $250,000, arguing his client has little money to hire a defense team to assist in the case. He said Westrom lost his job following his arrest last month

Attorney Steve Meshbesher is ready for a fight.

“Right now, everything is superficial,” Meshbesher, said. “It’s very old. Their so-called evidence doesn’t prove anything.”

Authorities have said DNA evidence linked Westrom to the bloody south Minneapolis crime scene after cold case investigators used online family genealogy websites to zero in on Childs’ suspected killer.

Court records show detectives followed Westrom to a college hockey game in Wisconsin to pluck a dirty napkin from the concession stand trash to obtain a match.

Meshbesher argues the victim was a known prostitute at the time and even if Westrom’s DNA was found it does not single him out as the murderer.

“Who was prostituting her is hugely important,” Meshbesher said. “How much money she was making for the person who promoted her as a prostitute, how long she had been a prostitute.”

While the legal arguments may vary, one thing is clear: law enforcement will continue to use online familial DNA data to crack unsolved cold cases.

In fact, it happened again in neighboring South Dakota in the last week. A mother was arrested in Sioux Falls for abandoning her baby in a frozen ditch some 38 years ago.

“It was sheer determination and stubbornness coupled with science and DNA and genealogy that solved this,” Detective Mike Webb of the Sioux Falls Police Department said at a news conference. 

Westom’s next court appearance is May 28.