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Killer identified in 40-year-old cold case in Baltimore County

Heather Porter
Posted at 5:09 PM, Dec 01, 2021

BALTIMORE COUNTY, Md. — A 40-year-old homicide case has been solved in Baltimore County.

On September 23, 1981, 13-year-old Heather Porter went missing from her Halethorpe neighborhood and today, detectives were able to match the identity of the person who took her life.

RELATED: Searching for closure in 1981 cold case

A day after Porter went missing, a man walking his dog found her body in a wooded area in Towson. Investigators believed the person responsible dragged the girl’s body into the woods and an autopsy determined she had been strangled and sexually assaulted.

While detectives had a DNA sample of the suspect, it has taken decades and advancements in DNA technology to identify a suspect.

Last year, detectives reviewed the case and requested the suspect's DNA profile be submitted for forensic geneaology.

In February 2021, results identified John Anthony Petrecca, Jr., as a possible suspect. A check of his criminal history showed prior arrests for rape in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

John Anthony Petrecca, Jr.

Detectives determined that at the time of the killing, Petrecca resided in the 100 block of Ridge Ave., in Halethorpe, Maryland, a short distance from where Heather Porter was last seen.

On the morning of March 11, 2021, police personnel gathered at a local cemetery in Baltimore County where Petrecca was buried in 2000 and on November 12, 2021, detectives learned the DNA obtained from Petrecca matched that of the suspect’s DNA profile.