Composite sketches bring hope to 1992 unsolved homicide case


A customer discovered store-owner James Essel stabbed to death inside his small-town, country market back in March of 1992.

Detectives believe the murder happened earlier that evening, during an apparent armed robbery.

“It definitely appears that Mr. Essel struggled with the suspect, put up a fight, and because things inside the store were tampered with we can’t rule out that it was a robbery,” said Detective Mark Janney, Montgomery County Police.

When a press release put out by police last year rendered no viable leads, Detective Janney knew they needed to approach the case from a new angle.

Officials say the struggle produced blood evidence of the suspect, and thus, a DNA profile.

With that profile, MCP partnered with Parabon to create composite sketches of the suspect then, and now.

“[The sketches describe the suspect’s] skin color [as] most likely a little darker than fair but not dark, dark eyes, dark hair, and no freckles,” said Dr. Ellen Greytak, director of Bioinformatics at Parabon Infolabs.

But Parabon is most confident about what to rule out, so for this suspect, the company is 100 percent sure he does not have blue or green eyes.

“We can be very confident that it will strongly resemble that person,” said Greytak.

While MCP is new to the technology, Parabon is not; their work has helped solve 12 cases since the organization’s founding in 2014.

“We enlisted them because we believe that someone in the public knows something else out there,” said Captain Darren Francke, director of Major Crimes Division.

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