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DNA leads to arrest in teen's 1991 death

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LONDON — A man whose DNA shows he sexually assaulted a high school honor student just before she was beaten and killed 17 years ago has been arrested in North Carolina, authorities said.

Evidence collected in the 1991 death of Jessica Lyn Keen was submitted to a federally funded DNA database, which revealed a match for Marvin Lee Smith Jr. on March 17 — the anniversary of the discovery of Keen’s naked body in a graveyard in Madison County west of Columbus, authorities said.

Keen was last seen at a Columbus bus stop two days before her body was found. Investigators determined the 15-year-old had been raped and beaten to death.

Smith, 51, lived in Columbus at the time of the girl’s death. He gave a DNA sample between 1991 and 1995 while imprisoned in Ohio on armed robbery, kidnapping and rape convictions unrelated to Keen’s death, said Jennifer Brindisi, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Marc Dann. Dann oversees the state’s Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, which analyzes DNA evidence.

The national database, known as the Combined DNA Index System, as well as developments in DNA technology that allow investigators to match suspects using tiny evidence samples, were crucial in identifying Smith, authorities said.

Police had tested DNA and questioned Keen’s friends and acquaintances over the years, but came up empty until Smith’s name appeared last month.

“His name never came up in the 17 years in the investigation as a person of interest,” said Madison County Sheriff Jim Sabin, who worked on the case as a detective.

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