It’s been nearly 20 years since the headless torso of a woman was found near a picnic area at a rest stop in Warren County, Missouri, but a man finally has been arrested for the crime.
Authorities weren’t able to identify the deceased woman for 12 years, using DNA samples in 2016 to determine that the body belonged to Deanna Denise Howland of Alton, Illinois, CBS News reported. Now, nearly seven years later, DNA has also led to a suspect: Mike Clardy, 63.
Clardy was charged on Wednesday with second-degree murder and abandonment of a corpse. His bail was set at $1 million.
Police were able to connect DNA fragments found on Howland’s body and a knife found in a sewer near the rest stop where her body was found to Clardy. When Clardy was interviewed about the crime on Tuesday, police said, he confessed to the crime, saying he killed Howland at his house and then dismembered her and dumped parts of her body in St. Louis County and Warren County.
Howland, a 35-year-old mother of four, struggled with a drug addiction prior to her death.
Her body was found on June 29, 2004, by maintenance workers at the rest stop, but the case quickly went cold. In 2014, Lt. Matt Schmutz of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department started investigating missing person cases. One year later, he communicated with the Madison County Illinois Sheriff’s Office about a case involving a woman who hadn’t been seen since the spring of 2004, KSDK reported. DNA testing in 2016 confirmed that the torso belonged to the missing woman.
Another three years passed before DNA testing resumed, eventually leading to Clardy in 2022. A DNA sample confirmed his connection.
Clardly has no criminal record in Missouri, CBS reported.
At a press conference on Thursday announcing the arrest, Howland’s daughter Ashley Kinnear thanked police for their years of work looking for her mother’s killer.
“I am just very very thankful,” she said.
Lt. Scott Schoenfeld, a detective with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office who worked on the case for years, also expressed his excitement about catching a suspect.
“At the point we zeroed in on a suspect it was one of the better moments of my career,” he said, according to KMOV.
If convicted, Clardy faces nearly 40 years in prison.