Officials: DNA links inmate to Utah child's death

AP News
|
Posted: Jan 04, 2010 9:14 PM

Salt Lake County prosecutors filed a capital murder charge Monday against an Idaho prison inmate, saying DNA evidence has linked him to the 1998 stabbing death of a 10-year-old Utah girl.

Anna Palmer's mother found her unconscious and bleeding on the front porch of her family's Salt Lake City home Sept. 10, 1998. She suffered five fatal stab wounds to the throat, including one that severed her spinal cord.

Matthew John Breck, 32, has been charged with one count each of aggravated murder, aggravated sexual abuse of a child and intentionally inflicting serious physical harm on a child. If convicted of murder, Breck could face the death penalty.

A 3rd District judge has issued an arrest warrant. Breck is in an Idaho prison in Orofino, serving five to 12 1/2 years for a 2001 conviction on charges of sodomy/lewdness of a minor child under 16, Jeff Raym, a spokesman for Idaho's prison system said.

In court documents filed Monday, prosecutors say DNA obtained from Palmer's fingernails were recently matched to a DNA profile of Breck in an FBI database. Palmer's fingernails were clipped during an initial autopsy and saved for later analysis, Salt Lake City police Sgt. Robin Snyder said.

Court papers say Breck lived about a block from Palmer in 1998 and that witnesses described seeing a man matching his description in the area at the time. A neighbor has also told police he saw Breck leaving the area, ducking in an out of cars down a side street, court papers show.

Snyder said Breck was not questioned in 1998. In the months since DNA linked him to Palmer's slaying, Salt Lake City detectives have questioned Breck, who maintains he did not know Palmer, Snyder said.

Prosecutors will seek Breck's extradition to face the Utah charges. It's unclear how soon that may occur.

Idaho records show that in 1999, Breck was convicted of burglary and sentenced to two to four years. He was released in January 2001 but returned to prison later that year, Ray said.

In Feburary 1999, Utah court records also show that Breck pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor aggravated assault charge for an incident involving a gun. A judge ordered him to serve a year in jail but suspended most of the term. Court records show Breck violated the terms of his probation within a few months and a warrant was issued for his arrest.