Suspect charged in woman's 1991 Minneapolis murder

A Crystal, Minnesota man is now charged in the 1991 murder of 20-year-old Belinda Thompson in Minneapolis. 

On Dec. 19, 1991, police found Thompson’s body in her apartment on the 2800 block of Grand Avenue South. She had been stabbed in 11 times in the front and back.

Donald Jenkins Jr., 56, was arrested Tuesday following DNA testing by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and an interview with police, in which he admitted to killing Thompson. He was charged on Thursday with second-degree murder. 

Jenkins was an acquaintance of Thompson’s boyfriend at the time of the murder. Police interviewed him as a possible suspect during the initial investigation in 1991, but the case went cold a year later, according to the charges. 

In 2008, homicide detectives submitted evidence to the BCA for DNA testing, which had previously not been possible. The evidence included a wet and bloody washrag found in the bathroom of Thompson’s apartment after the murder. 

In 2010, Jenkins was extradited for Louisiana to Minnesota to provide a DNA sample for comparison, which officers obtained with a search warrant. They also interviewed him regarding Thompson’s murder, but he denied ever being inside her apartment. He later claimed to have once used a washrag to wipe his knuckle, which he had cut while working on a vehicle at the victim’s apartment. 

The DNA testing conducted in 2010 and additional testing in 2018 found both Jenkins’ and Thompson’s DNA may be present in the blood on the washrag. 

"Certainly it can provide a good starting point if you're going to reopen an old case, to start with, what were the forensics at the time and what are the forensic capabilities now?" asked Christine Funk, a forensic science consultant. "Can we do something now we couldn't have 10, 20, 30 years ago?"

Funk warns, however, that DNA doesn't always seal the deal in a case. 

"You need good old fashioned police work," Funk said. "You need both the prosecution and the defense to separately analyze the evidence and frequently these cases go to jury trial and juries need to evaluate what is the significance of this evidence." 

Police interviewed Jenkins again on Tuesday. During the interview, he admitted to being in Thompson’s apartment and stabbing her. He said he killed Thompson because he thought her boyfriend would kill him for coming over to the apartment alone. He added that he was “chasing dope” when he went to the apartment and did not think anyone would be home. 

Jenkins said he has felt bad about Thompson’s murder for years and wished he could make it right.