For nearly a quarter of a century, no one had been arrested in connection to Brinkman’s murder — until now.
On November 28, 2022, Jeffrey Paul Premo, 52, was arrested and charged with Brinkman’s murder.
“It’s one of those things where it never leaves your thought process because it continues to be unsolved,” Marysville Police Department Commander Robb Lamoureux, who was the original detective assigned to Brinkman’s murder, said at a press conference on Tuesday. “It wasn’t until yesterday when we made the arrest and I was sitting at home thinking about it that it really hit that we’ve got a conclusion to this and we’re finally able to put it on a shelf and have some closure not only for us as investigators who have been involved in it but the family and the community.”
Brinkman had stayed home when her father went on vacation to California in 1998, local paper The Telegraph reported. The axe used to kill her had been left at the scene and police were able to collect DNA, but technology at the time wasn’t able to find a match.
But advancements in DNA technology made it possible to match the DNA collected from the axe to Premo, The Seattle Times reported.
Police knew that Brinkman used phone chat lines and dating sites. Detective Sgt. James Maples said at the press conference this week that she met Premo on one of these chat lines.
“Jennifer was a social individual,” Maples said. “She encouraged conversation as she would go to the library, walk around town. She engaged in telephone chat lines, dating sites, and actively sought companionship from people.”
Premo became a person of interest early in the investigation and initially denied knowing Brinkman, but back in 1998 police found a letter he had written to the victim, proving they had spoken prior to her murder. Police recently sent DNA from the crime scene to Parabon NanoLabs, which provides DNA forensic services to law enforcement. The company produced three possible suspects, one of whom was Premo. Police obtained a search warrant and collected Premo’s DNA to connect him to the crime, which, in addition to the letter and other evidence, provided probable cause for Premo’s arrest.
Brinkman’s father died in 2013, never knowing who murdered his daughter. Brinkman’s mother, who has not been named in media reports, was reportedly overwhelmed when she learned about Premo’s arrest, Commander Lamoureux said at the press conference.