APPLETON (NBC 26) — Back in 1988, the body of a homicide victim was found in Appleton. Her case went unsolved for decades. This week, an arrest was finally made.
Gene Meyer has been arrested in connection to the 1988 sexual assault and murder of Betty Rolf, Outagamie County authorities announced Thursday.
According to authorities, Meyer was taken into custody in Pierce County, Washington, and is being held at the Pierce County Jail in Tacoma, Washington. Meyer is awaiting extradition to Wisconsin.
The 66-year-old suspect is a resident of Eatonville, Washington, and was a former resident of Valders, Wisconsin, according to the sheriff's office.
On November 7, 1988, Betty Rolf's body was found underneath the bridge of West Spencer Street where it crossed railroad tracks. She had been sexually assaulted, beaten, and strangled.
According to a criminal complaint, authorities took DNA swabs from Rolf's body.
"In 1988, the Wisconsin Crime Lab did not have the ability to conduct DNA testing on evidence but instead relied on serological typing examinations and microscopic comparison," the complaint said. A DNA profile from the swabs was subsequently entered into CODIS, a crime database maintained by the FBI.
Betty Rolf’s case remained unsolved for decades.
In 2019, the criminal complaint said investigators began using a familial DNA search to track down potential relatives of the suspect. The investigation into the familial DNA led them to the family of Gene Meyer.
"Based on Investigator Fitzpatrick’s inquiries, the only possible suspects in the DNA lineage of Meyer family were Gene Meyer and his brother," the complaint said. Authorities interviewed Meyer's brother, who provided authorities with a DNA sample and was subsequently excluded as a suspect. With his brother excluded, the complaint says investigators zeroed in on Meyer.
The criminal complaint said an investigator spoke to a niece of Gene Meyer. She stated sometime after 1986, her mother told her that Gene had phoned and said “Goodbye” and “Thank you for everything.”
The complaint said she stated that she felt that something was bothering her mother after that phone call and that there was something that her mother was not telling her regarding the phone from Gene. According to statements in the complaint, her mother told her: "I have a secret...I have a secret...and it's going to go in my grave."
An investigator looked into Meyer's history, where he found Meyer had several run-ins with police. According to the complaint, Meyer was living at a place known as a "rooming house" or "boarding house," and it was located about one mile from the murder scene via the railroad tracks.
The investigator found that Gene Meyer had a criminal history through the state of Washington, where he currently lives. The investigator contacted agents from the FBI Office in Olympia, Washington, and made a request for surveillance on Gene Meyer in order to obtain a DNA sample from him.
In November, FBI agents told the Appleton investigator that they were able to acquire DNA swabs from the door handle of Meyer's Dodge Ram truck. These swabs were sent to the Wisconsin Crime lab for DNA analysis. The criminal complaint said the DNA was a match to one of the DNA samples taken at the scene of Rolf's murder.
"The Outagamie County Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the FBI Cold Case Team in Milwaukee for their assistance in solving this case as well as the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department (WA) and the FBI – Seattle Office for their assistance in affecting this arrest," the sheriff's office said in a statement.
If convicted of the homicide charge, Meyer faces a life sentence.