Sheriff: DNA evidence solves cold case

March 5, 2008 3:20:39 PM PST
A man has been arrested in the 1981 murder of his high school girlfriend, who was 3 months pregnant at the time of her death. The Cook County Sheriff's Department arrested Gary Albert over the weekend. Deputies said he killed Dawn Niles 27 years ago.

Albert and Niles, both of whom were deaf, attended Hinsdale South High School. They were high school sweethearts. In 1981, Niles became pregnant with Albert's child. Three months into her pregnancy, the 15-year-old was reported missing on March 17, 1981.

"She left that day with the defendant and she was never seen again," said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart.

Her body was found five days later by a fisherman in the Horsetail Lake Forest preserve in Palos Township. She had been stabbed more than 30 times.

Albert, 18 at the time, was the prime suspect. However, police did not have enough evidence to charge him.

Two years ago officials reopened the case when a friend of Niles asked about it. Over the weekend, Albert, 45, was charged with first-degree murder.

"Combining some of the old information we already had with some new technology, some new witnesses were we were able to piece together case against defendant," said Sheriff Dart. "It's amazing how vivid people's memories were as far as the details on what occurred and helping us put time lines together and filling in a lot of blanks that we had at the time."

Sheriff Dart said he is confident there is enough evidence to convict Albert.

In 1981, police never got a chance to interview Albert, whose family got him a lawyer right away.

Niles family said that while the murder occurred 27 years ago, it feels like yesterday to them. They did not wish to comment on camera about the arrest.