Ex-convict, 64, held in 1975 western Colorado double slaying
GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado ” A man who served prison time for sex-related crimes has been arrested in the 1975 stabbing deaths of a woman and her 5-year-old daughter.
Jerry Louis Nemnich, 64, of Longmont faces two counts of first-degree murder in the deaths of 24-year-old Linda Benson and her daughter, Kelley.
He appeared in court Friday and bail was set at $3 million.
Authorities say Nemnich, of Longmont, was arrested Wednesday after an investigation by a cold-case unit. A neighbor told the Longmont Daily Times-Call Nemnich was married and working as a long-haul trucker.
A message left by The Associated Press at a number listed for Nemnich was not immediately returned.
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Katherine Sanguinetti of the Colorado Department of Corrections said Nemnich was born in Denver and entered the prison system in 1962 when he was 17. He served prison terms of five and six years in the 60s and early 70s for attempted rape before a lengthy term in 1978 for first-degree sexual assault. He was released in 1992.
News reports from 1975 said Linda and Kelley Benson’s bodies were found in their Grand Junction apartment by Steve Benson, Linda’s husband and Kelley’s father. Steve Benson, a pipe fitter, had just returned home after working in Hayden for several days.
Authorities said at the time that Linda Benson’s nude body was at the foot of a bed and Kelley’s body was on the floor of a connecting bathroom
No arrests were made at the time. Police said Cmdr. Greg Assenmacher began re-examining evidence from the case in 2007 with the help of retired law enforcement officer Larry Bullard.
Police spokeswoman Kate Porras said investigators used techniques not available at the time but declined to release details, saying affidavits in the case have been sealed and the investigation continues.
“They reviewed the entire case, they looked at everything,” she said. “There are literally detectives fanning out across the area, right now, looking to speak with people who knew him at the time.”
Nemnich, a laborer in 1962, was sentence in Boulder County for a conviction of assault with a deadly weapon, assault with intent to rape and motor vehicle theft, according to prison records. He was released in 1963 but sent back to prison in 1964 for a parole violation and remained in prison until his release in 1967.
In 1968 he was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape in Pueblo County, where he was working as a bartender and clerk. Sanguinetti said Nemnich was released in 1974 but re-incarcerated in 1978 for a first-degree sexual assault conviction in Denver.
Prison records indicate he worked as an oil field worker in the 1970s.
Colorado’s prison system in 1989 began collecting the DNA of inmates convicted of sex crimes, though it was unclear whether Nemnich’s DNA had been collected and if that played in role in linking him to the Benson slayings.
The Department of Corrections now collects DNA from all inmates when they enter the system.