20-year-old unsolved murder case re-opened because of a conch shell

The Boston Globe reports that the unsolved 2001 murder of a disabled woman in New Bedford, Massachusetts is being re-examined, thanks to newly-found DNA evidence from a conch shell. The woman, Rose Marie Moniz, was found bludgeoned to death inside her home with a conch shell, a fireplace poker, and a cast-iron fireplace kettle, while her then-19-year-old son was asleep on the second floor.

Though local suspicion has haunted the son for the last two decades, prosecutors recently tested the conch shell murder weapon for DNA, and found evidence connecting the incidence back to Moniz's half-brother, David W. Reed, who allegedly trying to steal some cash from Moniz's purse:

Reed was tied to the murder by [Bristol Attorney General Thomas M.] Quinn, whose office since 2019 has been reviewing case files, physical evidence and forensic evidence from some 70 unsolved homicides dating to 1975.

Spokesman Gregg Miliote said one investigative technique Quinn's office uses is to search for the Y chromosome in biological evidence, which can generate a DNA profile used to identify males with a similar genetic profile. Moniz fought for her life, investigators concluded, and they were able to develop a Y-STR profile tied to the males in the Cunha line from biological evidence recovered from her dominant right hand.

Reviewing crime scene photographs, investigators noticed a pattern of indentations on Moniz's face that matched the spines on the back of the partially broken shell, one of two displayed next to the fireplace in her beach-themed home.

Her injuries were so extreme, investigators reasoned the killer must have had to put a hand inside the shell in order to grip it.

Reed himself has a colorful history of violence and theft, which the Globe goes into. But none of his other exploits have involved sea shells.

A most unusual murder weapon — a conch shell — used to solve 2001 New Bedford murder, Bristol DA says [John R. Ellement / The Boston Globe]

Image: Wolfslr / Wikimedia Commons [CC-BY-SA 4.0)