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Snohomish County Sheriff's detectives use DNA technology to solve 1993 cold case

Detectives from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit arrested a 62 year-old Bothell man for the April 1993 murder of 15 year-old Melissa Lee. Alan Edward Dean was taken into custody without incident at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, near his Bothell residence.
Melissa Lee cold case card. Image courtesy of Snohomish County Sheriff's Office.

From a July 29, 2020, Snohomish County Sheriff's Office press release.

Detectives from the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office Major Crimes Unit arrested a 62 year-old Bothell man for the April 1993 murder of 15 year-old Melissa Lee.

Alan Edward Dean was taken into custody without incident at 5:00 pm on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, near his Bothell residence.  

He has been booked into the Snohomish County Jail on one count of 1st degree murder and one count of 1st degree kidnapping for the 1993 kidnapping and killing of 15 year-old Melissa Lee.

Detectives continue to gather and process evidence and interview witnesses related to the investigation of Lee’s murder.

Because of this arrest, detectives are asking for people to come forward with information, specifically anyone who:

  • Currently knows Dean, previously knew Dean or knew of his activities in or around 1993 (he would have been 35 years-old at the time of the murder);
  • Recognizes Dean from the photo of him around the time of the killing in 1993 and/or from the more recent photo of him;
  • Dated, communicated with, or has any information regarding Dean around 1993 using a night talk line (he used a fake name of Mike or Michael);
  • Has information regarding Dean having access to Ethyl Ether and Heptane chemicals around the time the crimes were committed.

Detectives confirmed Dean was living on Madison Street in Everett in 1993; his residence was approximately 3.6 miles from where Lee’s body was found. He worked dayshift at Boeing in Everett prior to the killing. 

“We never gave up hope that we would find Melissa’s killer,” said Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney. “The arrest yesterday shows how our detective’s determination, combined with new advancements in DNA technology, continues to get us one step closer to justice for victims and their families, even decades later. We are also extremely thankful for the support and expertise from our partners at Parabon.”

Dean was identified as a suspect through the use of genetic genealogy, which is the use of DNA testing in combination with traditional genealogical methods to establish the relationship between an individual and their ancestors. 

Successful identification of Dean was established with assistance from Parabon NanoLabs (Parabon), a DNA technology company in Virginia that performed genetic genealogy analysis for the case.

A digital file containing DNA genotype data derived from evidence at the crime scene was uploaded to a public genetic genealogy website, and promising matches were found for multiple of the suspect’s relatives.

After Parabon’s genealogists deduced Dean’s identity, detectives subsequently acquired an abandoned DNA sample from a cigarette butt he had used. Washington State Patrol’s crime lab confirmed that it positively matched the DNA profile from the crime scene evidence.

This is the third arrest of a murder suspect in Snohomish County that involved assistance from Parabon.

If you or anyone you know has information related to this case or suspect, please call the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office tip line 425-388-3845.

00 pm on Tuesday, July 28, 2020, near his Bothell residence.

Photos of Alan Dean in 1993 (left) and more recently. Photos courtesy of Snohomish County Sheriff's Office.

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