After Nearly 50 Years, Harvard Grad Student Murder Is Solved Using New DNA Technology

DNA left at the crime scene has been linked to Michael Sumpter in the murder investigation of Jane Britton.

image of DNA on a red background, yellow polic line tape in the foreground
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DNA left at the crime scene has been linked to Michael Sumpter in the murder investigation of Jane Britton.

Thanks to advances in DNA technology, more cold case crimes are being solved. Now, a 50-year-old case involving a Harvard grad student has been solved thanks to help from advances in DNA technology.

Jane Britton, 23, was raped, beaten, and strangled to death in 1969 in her apartment located near Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Prior to her death, Jane had been studying anthropology at Harvard. Her body was discovered by her boyfriend.

Until now, her case has remained unsolved. However, advances in DNA technology has led to her case being solved, according to Fox News.

Using this advanced technology, DNA evidence has linked Michael Sumpter to Jane’s murder.

Even though police had received tip-offs from the public since Jane’s murder, they had little to go on in relation to the crime. However, DNA evidence had been collected at the time and was still on hand, meaning police could finally do DNA analysis all these years later, according to Fox 25 Boston.

Middlesex County District Attorney Marian Ryan released the following statement regarding Jane’s murder.

“Using new DNA technology as well as good, hard investigative work, we have had a breakthrough in terms of where we are in this matter. DNA left in place by itself doesn’t necessarily lead you to a conclusion, it’s all the investigative framework that goes with that.”

In addition, this is considered the oldest case solved using this sort of technology.

“This is the oldest case that we’ve been able to get a breakthrough like this,” Ryan also said.

So, who is Michael Sumpter?

Previously, Sumpter has seen prison time for the rape of a woman in 1975. However, 13 months after his parole for this offense, Sumpter “died of cancer in 2001 at the age of 54,” according to Fox News.

Prior to his stint in jail, Sumpter had been “arrested and convicted of physically assaulting a woman he met at the Harvard Square MBTA station three years after Jane’s murder,” according to Fox 25 Boston.

Since his death, he has also been linked to several other murders and sexual assaults thanks to DNA technology. One of those sexual assaults occurred in 1985 after he escaped work release.

In 2010, Sumpter was linked to the 1972 murder of 23-year-old Ellen Rutchick. Then, in 1973, advanced DNA technology also linked him to the murder of 24-year-old Mary Lee McClain.

Investigators have now said they can confidently close this cold case. They also believe that this murder was a random attack and it is unlikely that Jane Britton knew Michael Sumpter.