Forensic Genealogy Helps Green Bay Police Make Arrest In 1986 Cold Case

Lisa Holstead Was Murdered 34 Years Ago. Police Believe They've Found Her Killer.

Green Bay police have made an arrest for the murder of Lisa Holstead. Holstead, 22, was killed in 1986. Photo courtesy of the Green Bay Police Department

Over the last 34 years, generations of detectives from the Green Bay Police Department have been searching for Lisa Holstead’s killer.

On Wednesday, police arrested Lou Archie Griffin, 65, of Racine. He’s been charged with first-degree intentional homicide.

“Solving a case like this is not just once in a lifetime for detectives, this is once in a generation for a whole squad room of detectives,” Police Chief Andrew Smith said.

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Construction workers found Holstead’s body on the afternoon of Aug. 12, 1986, near what’s now Ken Eures Nature Park in Green Bay. The 22-year-old’s death was ruled a homicide by strangulation, court documents show.

Her case would remain unsolved if not for excellent police work at the time, Smith said. The Wisconsin Crime Lab collected DNA evidence, but it never turned up a match in CODIS, a national DNA database used by law enforcement.

Still, the DNA sample proved valuable when lead Detective David Graf decided to try using forensic genetic genealogy to solve the case. He sent the evidence to a lab that was able to extrapolate more information about a potential suspect, including his heritage. It even helped identify some relatives.

Police started building family trees for 10 to 15 people thought to be related to the suspect. The real breakthrough came when they started finding family members who lived in Wisconsin, Graf said.

Ultimately, their investigation led them to Griffin.

In 1981, Griffin was sentenced to nine years in prison for sexually assaulting a child, according to court documents. He was released on parole in May 1986. In July, his parole was transferred to a unit in Green Bay.

According to court documents, Griffin lived near the area where Holstead was last seen, and on his way home from work, he regularly drove by the location where her body was found.

In September, with the help of the Racine County Metro Drug Unit and the Wisconsin Department of Criminal Investigation, police collected Griffin’s DNA off a beer can and a cigarette butt. Analysis confirmed it was a match for DNA found on Holstead’s body.

Griffin was very cooperative when he spoke to police last week, Graf said. Court documents show he denies any involvement in Holstead’s death. Griffin is being held in the Brown County Jail.

In October 1986, Holstead’s mother, Judith Thompson, published a letter in the Green Bay Press Gazette asking her daughter’s killer to confess. Smith read it at a news conference on Monday.

“Think of what you’re putting her 5-year-old son through,” Thompson wrote.

Thompson passed away last year. But police said they hope the arrest will help bring closure to those who knew Holstead.

“We do it for the family, and we do it for the friends, and we do it for Lisa Holstead’s son, who’s now about 40 years old. But mostly we do it for people like Lisa Holstead, who’s not there to tell us what happened,” Smith said.