After more than 18 years of waiting, Ashley Kinnear finally learned the name this week of the man police now believe is behind the grisly 2004 murder and dismemberment of her mother.
Mike A. Clardy, 63, of Maryland Heights admitted to police this week he met Deanna Howland for the first time on June 26, 2004, when he hired her as a sex worker before killing her in his St. Ann home, police officials announced at a Warrenton news conference that Kinnear attended with her brother Thursday afternoon.
Kinnear said she’ll never forget getting the call Tuesday that there was finally an arrest in the case.
“I felt every emotion, even some I can’t put into words,” she said in an interview Thursday. “I was shaking and crying, but mostly I was excited and thankful. It’s not just me and my family who’s never forgotten about her for the last 19 years. The investigators have been working on it all these years too.”
Clardy was charged in St. Louis County Wednesday with second-degree murder and abandonment of a corpse in the killing of Howland, a 35-year-old Alton mother whose decapitated torso was discovered at a Wright City rest stop off Interstate 70 two days after her death.
Police Thursday said forensic genetic genealogy was the key to breaking open the investigation.
“At the point where we zeroed in on the suspect, it was one of the better moments of my career,” said Warren County sheriff’s Lt. Scott Schoenfeld, indicating toward Kinnear and her brother: “We’re going to be able to hold the person who committed this crime and who took their mother away responsible for what he had done.”
The charges are the latest among dozens of cold cases across the country to identify suspects through forensic genetic genealogy, the practice of identifying suspects or their relatives by comparing crime scene DNA to genetic profiles in genealogy databases.
The Major Case Squad submitted crime scene DNA taken from Howland’s body and a knife found near her torso to the FBI’s Investigative Genetic Geneology Team in 2021 and within a year the FBI identified Clardy as a match.
Clardy was arrested Tuesday at the duplex he shares with his wife on a quiet block of Charlemagne Drive in Maryland Heights.
Clardy was injured in an unrelated 2004 accident after Howland’s killing, and is now legally blind, police said. He has no prior convictions, according to Missouri court records. He’s not been linked to any other killings, officials with the Major Case Squad said.