DA: DNA sample identifies man responsible for 1969 killing of Harvard grad student

CAMBRIDGE, MASS. (WHDH) - A career criminal with ties to Cambridge who died in 2001 and has been linked to two other homicides in the greater Boston area has been identified as the man who brutally killed a Harvard University graduate student in 1969, officials said.

Through DNA testing, authorities identified Michael Sumpter as the man who killed 23-year-old Jane Britton in her fourth-floor apartment on University Road in Cambridge on Jan. 7, 1968, Middlesex District Attorney Marian T. Ryan announced Tuesday.

When she failed to appear for a test the next day, Britton’s boyfriend found her body.

Authorities later determined she had been sexually assaulted and repeatedly struck in the head.

“The murder of Jane Britton has raised many questions, and piqued the interest of members of the community over the past 50 years,” Ryan said in a statement. “Multiple teams of investigators have been assigned to this case looking into tips from the public and ruling out multiple suspects. As a direct result of their perseverance and utilization of the latest advances in forensic technology by the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab today I am confident that the mystery of who killed Jane Britton has finally been solved and this case is officially closed.”

Ryan said thanks to advancements in DNA technology, the Massachusetts State Police Crime lab was able to obtain a Y-STR, or male-specific profile, from the remaining DNA samples on file from the original swabs in October of 2017.

In July of 2018, the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab notified the investigators that there was a match between the 2017 Y-STR profile from the evidence sample and Sumpter’s CODIS sample on file with the Massachusetts State Police Crime Lab.

In 1967, less than two years before Jane’s murder, Sumpter was working on Arrow Street in Cambridge approximately a mile from Jane’s apartment. Sumpter was also arrested and convicted of a physical assault on a woman whom he had met at the Harvard Square MBTA station, blocks from Ms. Britton’s apartment, three years after Jane Britton’s murder.

This is the third homicide linked to Michael Sumpter since the time of his death. In 2010, the Suffolk District Attorney’s Office was informed that Sumpter’s DNA was a match to DNA taken from the 1972 murder and rape of 23-year-old Ellen Rutchick in her Beacon Street apartment and in 2012, a second CODIS hit matched Sumpter to the evidence taken from the 1973 rape and murder of 24-year-old Mary Lee McClain in her Mount Vernon Street apartment. None of the victims are believed to have known, or had any relationship with, Sumpter.

Sumpter died of cancer at the age of 54 in 2001, 13 months after he was paroled from his 15 to 20 year sentence for this 1975 Boston rape.

In 2002, after his death, Sumpter was identified by another CODIS hit in connection with a 1985 rape of a woman in Boston committed after he escaped from work release.

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