DNA helps identify lead suspect in California cold case from ’80s


GALT, Calif. (KTXL) — Investigators in California have identified a suspect in a murder case from 1988, according to the district attorney in Sacramento County and the Galt Police Department.

On May 23, 1988, 79-year-old Lucille Hultgren was found dead in her home by a couple of friends who noticed that she hadn’t been to church the previous day. Police determined she had been strangled, stabbed and sexually assaulted.

Investigators spoke to numerous neighbors and contacts during the course of the investigation, and collected a “large amount” of evidence, according to Galt police. But the case went cold, and no one was charged in the killing.

In January of 2022, however, the Sacramento Crime Lab decided to re-examine the evidence using the latest advances in DNA analysis technology, authorities said. They were eventually able to match the DNA to Terry Bramble, now considered the lead suspect in Hultgren’s murder.

“For nearly two decades, our crime lab, the Sacramento County DA’s crime lab, worked extensively to examine, to study and meticulously find the evidence that was necessary in this case,” Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said.

Schubert credited Hultgren herself with helping to determine the suspect, as Bramble’s DNA was collected from under her fingernails. (A convicted sex offender, Bramble’s DNA was already on file in a databank.)

Bramble died in 2011. but police in Galt say they will continue to work with neighboring departments to investigate whether he may have been involved in other crimes.

“We are canvassing other jurisdictions to see if there are any common cold cases out there that we can look into not only here in our community but in the region,” Galt Police Chief Brian Kalinowski said.

Kalinowski added that Bramble had been living under a bridge on State Route 99 for about five years before his death from natural causes in 2011.

“Our hearts go out to the Hultgren family and although we’re unable to bring Lucille back, we hope by identifying the suspect responsible for her death it can provide some closure for her family,” the Galt Police wrote in a press release.

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