New DNA technology may solve 20-year-old double homicide

Sept. 7—Advances in forensic science may help the Kansas Bureau of Investigation unlock the mystery of a double homicide in Great Bend that has gone unsolved for 20 years. Corey Latham, special agent in charge of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, stood outside the KBI office building in Great Bend and spoke Tuesday at a news conference where he said the KBI identified a male DNA sample taken from the body of one of the two women were killed at the Dolly Madison Bakery Outlet Store, located at 1004 Harrison St.

“This past Sunday, September 4, marked the 20th anniversary of the deaths of Mary Drake and Mandi Alexander,” Latham said. On that date in 2002, the Great Bend Police Department received a call from a Dolly Madison Bakery truck driver who stopped there to make a delivery at approximately 7:55 p.m. and found the bodies.

“A thorough investigation was conducted at the time. Over hundreds of weeks, we have interviewed hundreds of people. Thousands of personalities have worked on this investigation, but today not a single person has been arrested for this. We hope to change that.” he said.

“Over the past year, KBI agents and forensic scientists conducted an exhaustive review of all physical evidence collected in this case and focused on technologies that have advanced beyond where they were in 2002, specifically focusing on areas that could produce results that would As a result of that, we identified a male DNA sample that was on one of the bodies, and that in itself is pretty significant.”

Unfortunately, that’s not a DNA profile that can be put into a national database to search for a match, Latham said.

“The DNA profile as I said is a male profile, so it’s Y-STRs (taken specifically from the male Y chromosome). Y-STRs are useful to us in terms of direct comparison. What I mean by that is we need to we have a person’s name, and then we’re going to go ask that person to give us a sample of their DNA. And then we can compare it.”

While that’s useful information, it doesn’t immediately reveal a suspect’s name, he admitted. However, it’s a promising lead because Great Bend Police Department detectives, KBI agents and Barton County Sheriff’s officials have previously collected several DNA samples in connection with this investigation.

“We will continue with these efforts,” which helps law enforcement examine individuals and in some cases eliminate suspects.

“Obviously we’re looking for the right person, which is why we’re holding this press conference today. We’re hoping that we can find a person out there that can hold just a little bit of information, hoping that we can find a detail that maybe they haven’t shared before or a suspicion of a person that we can then use in our investigation.

“The KBI, the Great Bend Police Department, the Barton County Sheriff’s Office — we are committed to solving this crime. Our condolences go out to the family and friends of Mary and Maddy. We know it’s been a difficult 20 years for them. and we want nothing more than to solve this crime ourselves.”

Public assistance is still needed

Lathem also thanked the audience for the dozens, if not hundreds, of tips and leads he’s shared over the years.

“We have done our best to take down each and every one of them and will continue to do so. That is why we would ask for your continued support. If anyone has even the slightest detail related to this case, we would ask them to report it by calling the KBI at 1-800-KS-CRIME or submitting anonymously at or by calling Barton County Crime Stoppers.”

There is still a $17,000 reward for information leading to a solution this time.

Families disappointed

Latham answered a few questions from the media, but said he didn’t want to reveal information that would prevent law enforcement from presenting a strong case in court when it comes time to bring a suspect to justice. But Mandi Alexander’s sister, Desiree Werth, expressed her frustration with the KBI.

“I want to know why you never stayed in touch with the families,” Werth said. “Because we always had to find out through social media, things that have happened or what you are doing now.

“Like the other day, I got a call from Brian (Carroll, senior special agent, lead investigator on the case). However, as soon as I hung up after asking him directly if there was any new information he could give me he said no, because that information would only be known to the person in charge, and law enforcement. Then hang up and read on Facebook that you have new information. …

“We’d rather you pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey, we don’t really have any new information to give you, but we want you to know that we care and we’re still here,’ than not hear from you at all.” Do you understand what this is like? Obviously not, because it’s been going on for 20 years.”

Carroll was in the audience, along with Great Bend Police Chief Steve Haulmark and Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir. Latham invited Werth to come to the KBI office to discuss it further.

Latham acknowledged that this is a difficult case and has been from day one.

“We were hoping to solve this issue in the first year. Certainly the passage of time doesn’t help, but we’re optimistic that we’ll get there. This release of DNA information is a major development in the case.”

Kathy Phelps, a friend of Mandy Alexander, comforted Werth and joined her after the press conference. When asked what Maddy was like, Phelps said, “I remember her being very kind. Loving, shy, very wholesome. She was always happy and she loved her children very much. She was very family oriented.” Phelps said everyone in Drake and Alexander’s family has appreciated everything law enforcement has done.

“It’s only 20 years later and how can you not be incredibly upset? How can you not? I know they appreciate law enforcement, but let’s get this thing over with.”

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