SYCAMORE, Ill. (CBS) — A former Chicago man was arrested in Cincinnati Tuesday, on accusations that he murdered a mother and son in their home nearly four years ago.
As CBS 2’s Jim Williams reported, police said they employed relatively new technology in which they used the accused killer’s own DNA to track him down – hundreds of miles away.
Johnathan D. Hurst, 51, once lived in the 1440 block of North Wells Street in the Old Town neighborhood, according to Sycamore Police Chief Deputy Andy Sullivan. He was taken into custody on Monday.
Hurst is currently in the Hamilton County Jail in Ohio awaiting extradition on two counts of first-degree murder. He is charged in the murders of 85-year-old Patricia A. Wilson and her 64-year-old son, Robert J. Wilson, in Sycamore.
In the three and a half years since the murder happened at 16058 Old State Rd. in a rural area of Sycamore, investigators say they have followed more than 1,300 leads.
From evidence obtained at the scene, a complete DNA profile was obtained in 2018, which allowed investigators to identify Hurst through a public genealogy database. Essentially, working with Parabon Labs, investigators were able to reverse-engineer a family tree that led to Hurst about a week ago, Sullivan said.
“During this investigation, countless hours were spent continually working to bring this person to justice for the horrific and unprovoked act of violence,” Sullivan said. Hurst has no known connection to the family, Sullivan said. “It appears to be a random act of violence.” Police believe Hurst acted alone and they do not know why he was in Sycamore that day. He has no known ties to the town and had been working in Ohio and held jobs at bookstores and restaurants previously in Chicago.
Hurst has no known criminal history, Sullivan said. The Cincinnati Enquirer repors Hurst has no record in Hamilton County.
In Chicago, CBS 2 is told Hurst worked in restaurants and bookstores.
He was arrested at his home on Monday evening.
Patricia and Robert Wilson were both found beaten to death at their home. Officers were called there for a death investigation on Aug. 15, 2016, and found the mother and son dead of apparent blunt force trauma, police said.
“It appears that there was forced entry into the residence,” police said in a statement at the time. The killings apparently happened the night before.
Friends and neighbors could not understand it.
“I’m just very upset and distraught over it. You know, something happened to a very nice family,” one neighbor told CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar just after the murders.
DeKalb County State’s Attorney Rick Amato said the mystery remained distressing for the community years later.
“Over the last three and a half years, there’s been so many unanswered questions about this horrendous murder,” Amato said.
Ken Mundy, the former mayor of Sycamore who has since passed away, at the time called the killings “a true mystery.” Mundy said that Sycamore residents were trying to rely on faith, family, and friends to get by.
“While we certainly don’t understand what happened, we can look to our faith and be strengthened that way,” he said in 2016.
But investigators had one advantage.
“This crime had a significant amount of physical evidence,” Sullivan said.
That was where Parabon Labs came in and the family tree was constructed.
“This work took an extraordinary amount of effort and a significant amount of time to locate this offender,” Sullivan said.
Taken from the home was a white, 2010 four-door Chevrolet Impala with an Illinois license plate of 903 0980, police said. About 10 days later, Chicago police found the car on Stockton Drive near the Lincoln Park Zoo, a short distance from his home on Wells Street in Old Town.
Chicago police contacted the DeKalb County Major Case Squad, and investigators kept the car under surveillance throughout the day, before returning it to DeKalb County to be processed for evidence.
Investigators found “items of potential evidence” in the car and sent them to the Illinois State Police Crime Lab. Robert Wilson won a $1 million Lottery prize in 1988 at the Taste of Chicago.
Hurst’s motive is a mystery.
“There’s no known connection to this family whatsoever,” Sullivan said. “It appears to be a random act of violence.”
Sullivan said he believes Hurst acted alone.
Police across the country are increasingly using DNA profiles to solve cold cases. Last month, they identified a suspected serial killer in suburban Lisle.
For the mother and son’s neighbors in Sycamore, there was relief Tuesday.
“Just happiness that, you know, the family can get some closure and the police did a good job and solve the crime, because you never want somebody to get away with something like this,” said neighbor Bob Divita.