ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – A man who died in 2001 is the suspected killer of Alie Berrelez in 1993, Englewood police announced on Tuesday morning.
Eighteen years after the abduction and killing, Police say DNA evidence and new technology that analyzes it has led them to Nicholas Stofer.
Stofer was 41 at the time and was a person of interest in the case, but there was no evidence at the time to connect him directly to the murder. Now police say his DNA matches DNA that was found in Alie’s underwear.
“Our case will be closed knowing that Nicolas Stofer was the individual that caused the disappearance and the death of Alie Berrelez,” Englewood Police Chief John Collins said.
Berrelez was 5 on May 18, 1993, when she disappeared from the Golden Nugget apartment complex at 200 W. Grand Ave. Her body was found 4 days later in a khaki duffel bag down an embankment in Deer Creek Canyon. A police bloodhound named Yogi helped officers find the body.
Stofer lived in the same apartment complex as Alie. Investigators actually tried to charge him with the murder but the district attorney ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed with charges.
The case received large amounts of media attention in the 90s, and the bloodhound’s work impressed Berrelez’s family so much that the grandparents started a foundation whose goal in part is to purchase bloodhounds for law enforcement agencies.
Richard Berrelez, Alie’s grandfather, said on Tuesday during the news conference in Englewood that he and his family had their suspicions about Stofer.
“There were many people that we would think … of as persons who had committed this crime. Nick Stoffer back then was a person of interest. And throughout 18 years and all the speaking engagements that I’ve been to — to talk to law enforcement throughout the country, to different groups and public schools and the business world — I would always say ‘There is no suspect. We have nobody.’ Even though deep down in the back of my mind I knew that Nick Stofer was a person of interest.
“There was nothing to confirm (or) connect him to this crime. That he had been anywhere near Alie, there were only assumptions, thoughts, different people saying ‘Well I think he did it. I think he was there.’
“I even had one person come to me one time and said to me (Stofer) ‘was a person who said some things and I heard him and I want to tell you what he said.’ And that kind of made me believe that he was the one that did it, but still no solid evidence to really point a finger at him and say ‘That’s the person that committed the crime. That’s the person that walked into Alie’s play area and either carried her away or took her by the hand without anybody hearing or seeing anything.’ “
Watch Alan Gionet’s Good Question report: What Is Trace DNA?:
The A.L.I.E. Foundation has provided bloodhounds to approximately 350 agencies around the country in the years since the murder. Berrelez says he and his family will continue the work of the foundation into the future.
Alie would have turned 23 next week.
Stofer was found dead in his apartment in Phoenix due to natural causes in 2001. He didn’t have a criminal record beyond an alcohol charge or a minor drug charge.
“He didn’t come up on the radar in regards to a child predator with multiple convictions, it was nothing like that,” Collins said. “It’s my understanding that alcohol and drugs played a large part in his life.”
RELATED LINK: A.L.I.E. Foundation Inc.