WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — The Wichita Police Department says it has identified a suspect in the 1989 murder of Krista Martin. But they say the suspect died in a car crash in Tennessee in 1999.

It was 34 years ago Monday that Martin was found beaten to death in her apartment in the 500 block of S. Osage. She was 20 years old.

Krista Martin (Courtesy: Ember Moore, Krista’s niece)

The WPD collected DNA evidence at the crime scene, but technology at the time could not solve the case.

Police continued to work the case and check the DNA as more advanced technology became available.

In recent years, police got the Federal Bureau of Investigation to help with the case. And in 2022, WPD partnered with private industry genealogists to scrutinize DNA profiles to identify a suspect.

The WPD said Paul Hart emerged as a possible suspect this past April, but investigators learned he died in a crash in March 1999.

Krista Martin (Courtesy: Wichita Police Department)

So, a WPD investigator and an FBI agent traveled to Arkansas in June to get DNA samples from Hart’s direct relatives.

“They have to make sure that the person identified through these genealogical methods had access to the victim, could have been in the area, owned the type of weapon that might have been used,” said Othram Chief Development Officer Dr. Kristen Mittelman.

Through interviews and getting the DNA samples tested, the WPD said they confirmed that Hart was the suspect in Martin’s murder.

Investigators took the case to Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett.

“It was clear to me that this was a case that I would have charged if the suspect was alive to charge him,” said Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett.

During a news conference on Monday, Martin’s niece, Ember Moore, thanked law enforcement for their dedication to her aunt’s case.

Krista Martin with her niece Ember Moore as a baby (Courtesy: Ember Moore)

Moore thanked the volunteers “who spent hundreds of hours doing research and sorting through records. They were the key to finding the suspect. I am glad we can finally move forward and have peace knowing that Krista’s murderer is not walking around free or amongst us.”

Othram is one of the partners in Martin’s case that helped build the suspect profile.

Dr. Mittelman said the lab started in 2018 and is the first in the world purposely built to identify victims and perpetrators from crime scenes.

Dr. Mittelman shared that a federal bill is expected to be presented this week.

It’s called the Carla Walker Act and would bring funding to help law enforcement solve more cases using DNA Analysis.

“This is the beginning of a new type of tool that law enforcement can use to clear these cases sooner,” said Dr. Mittelman.