SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — A cold case murder solved nearly 41 years later but the victim’s parents say they still want answers.
Michelle Wyatt was 20-years-old when she was raped and murdered inside her Santee condo in 1980.
San Diego Sheriff’s Department investigators have worked tirelessly since her murder, exhausting all DNA technology available to catch her killer.
It wasn’t until detectives used investigative genetic genealogy that they were able to name a suspect, but he died in 2004.
Michelle Wyatt's mother has been going to her daughter's grave at Mt. Hope Cemetery every Sunday.
“She really was a good girl. I miss her so much,” said Louise Wyatt, Michelle’s mother.
Her father remembers her big heart.
“She was a bright kid, she was a go getter and a pleasure to be around,” said Ray Wyatt, Michelle’s father.
On October 9, 1980, Michelle Wyatt was murdered inside her condo complex at 10586 Kerrigan Court in Santee. She grew up in San Carlos, was attending Grossmont Community College and was a cashier at Safeway in Mission Hills.
Detectives said her roommate found Michelle later that day. The medical examiner found she died from strangulation. Investigators say she was strangled with a telephone cord.
Michelle’s parents are now in their 80’s.
“That was my biggest scare of dying and [to] not know who did it,” said Louise.
Now the Wyatt’s know who murdered their daughter.
After decades of testing the unknown DNA profile found at the crime scene, the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department announced Wednesday they named a suspect. For years they collected nearly 90 samples from potential suspects.
In the early morning of October 9, 1980, Michelle's boyfriend left her condominium and locked the front door. Shortly after the boyfriend left, witnesses heard screaming coming from where Michelle lived, but nobody called 911.
Sheriff's detectives said in June 2000 the items of evidence were re-examined utilizing more sensitive methods. Through these tests, evidence was found that supported the belief there were two separate DNA profiles at the crime scene.
The sexual assault kit recovered from Michelle revealed one of the DNA profiles was Michelle's boyfriend and the other profile came from an unidentified male subject. Michelle's boyfriend was eliminated as a suspect.
Again, detectives interviewed numerous subjects and were unable to identify Michelle's killer. The case went cold again.
Her family said the boyfriend was with them when detectives broke the news they found a suspect. He continues to visit Ray and Louise.
In 2001, the unknown suspect's DNA profile was entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). There was never a match to the unknown suspect's DNA in CODIS.
In March 2020, familial DNA search found no matches, then in September 2020 the Sheriff’s Homicide Unit’s Cold Case Team used investigative genetic genealogy and identified John Patrick Hogan “Pat" Hogan. He was 18 at the time of her murder.
“I can't imagine seeing his picture, a nice young-looking man, it's mind boggling,” said Ray Wyatt.
San Diego Sheriff’s say they used similar techniques to solve three other cold case murders.
The Golden State Killer was also found using investigative genetic genealogy.
Detectives say in Michelle’s murder they formed family trees and and contacted relatives who submitted their DNA which confirmed it was Hogan’s DNA at the crime scene.
Sheriff’s say Hogan died from a heart attack on October 9, 2004 in Phoenix, exactly 24 years since Michelle’s murder. He was 42-years-old.
Her family said they still need closure.
“Still a numb feeling because she is not with us,” said Ray Wyatt.
Detectives do not believe Hogan is connected to other unsolved cases in San Diego County but shared their case with agencies where Hogan lived specifically in the 70’s and 80’s.
Hogan was born in Arizona in 1961, he moved to Santee in the 70’s and went to Santana High School, he lived a mile away from Michelle. He knew friends who lived in her complex. In 1979, Hogan joined the U.S. Air Force, he was stationed in New Mexico and lived in California, Idaho, and Arizona.
“I'm glad to find out that he is gone but I'm missing something, what is the word I'm looking for. Closure. I don't have closure and that is what I need,” said Louise Wyatt. “At least now I know this guy isn't out there anymore but I would still like to get him,” she said.
Anyone with information about this investigation or Pat Hogan is asked to call the Homicide Unit at (858) 285-6330/after hours at (858) 565-5200. You can remain anonymous by calling Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.
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