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Cracking Civic Theatre Cold Case Consumes the Valley

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“This case has always entrenched this valley," said Lewiston police Lt. Budd Hurd.

September 12th, 1982, Kristina Nelson and Brandy Miller, step-sisters and best friends, left their home in the normal hill neighborhood, to walk to the grocery store. "The two girls were walking in or near the Theatre," said Lt. Hurd.

The Lewiston Civic Theatre is the focal point of an investigation that went cold years ago. Both women were familiar with the theatre and law enforcement believes they went inside. They vanished that night, but there was another person in the theatre as well Steven Pearsall. "Everything suggests he was there that night." He worked at the Civic Theater, and a witness saw him go inside on the night of September 12th, 1982. "There are so signs of him anywhere,” explained Lt. Hurd, “nothing's ever come up. We've never found anything tied to him since that time.”

A year and half later, on the side of the Kendrick grade, the bodies of Kristina Nelson and Brandy Miller were found murdered, and presumed dumped by the killer. But now, 35 years after the disappearance and murders, the items collected at the scene are breathing new life into this case. "Thinking about how long it's been since these items have been tested we thought, hey, let's pick a few of these things and send them in to an independent lab and have them tested again with new technology, things that weren't available back 35 years ago,” said Lt. Hurd. He is part of a new cold case task force. They will be sending items from the scene in for DNA testing.

Lewiston police is also working side by side with law enforcement across the river. Lt. Hurd said, "Detective Nichols over in Asotin County has kind of been the driving force. She's really enthralled with this case, and knows a lot about it."

Asotin county sheriff's detective Jackie Nichols collected all the evidence she could find, and compiled it all into 12 volumes. This is because she believes Lewiston's case could be connected to one of hers. "Because there's some commonalities between the case that I'm working on in Asotin County and the cases that other jurisdictions are working on, it's even more important that we share the information and help each other, because bringing a resolution to one of our cases may bring a resolution to all of our cases," Det. Nichols explained. She is investigating the case of Christina White, a girl who vanished from Asotin in 1979.

"The person that lived in the house where Christina White was last scene was also working that night in the theatre where they all disappeared," she said. "So we're trying to pull all these cases together,” said Lt. Hurd.

This suspect was questioned around the time of the murders, and he admitted to being in the theatre on that night. "He was interviewed, and toward the end he lawyered up or he took his rights and said he wasn't going to talk to us anymore. So that ended it, so we haven't been able to talk to him since," he said. The suspect then moved across the county, but detectives are hopeful, testing for DNA may help bring him back into the investigation. "If there is a DNA developed that's unknown then obviously that's going to peak our interest and we're going to try and figure out who that is, especially if that comes back as a male profile." Lt. Hurd said if they find a male DNA profile that they cannot match they may be able to take this one step closure to getting a sample from the suspect. "What we would have to do, if we were able to is, get basically, a detainer is like a warrant and we would have him come in, to where ever and have a DNA sample taken,” he explained. He also says even if they find DNA it does not mean it will match the suspect, but he is hopeful that this could not only solve this case, but also the Christina White case, and potentially others. "Other experts have looked at it not only here but in California, Texas, there are some people even back in North Carolina that have worked some cases that they feel like are linked," said Lt. Hurd.

But overall, the goal isn't only getting justice, but answers. "If they're able to get any breakthrough in their case I'm hoping there may be a domino effect and bring some resolution to my case here in Asotin County," Det. Nichols said. "You never know what's going to click and trip a case so It could be one person that could say, hey you know what, I remember this happened and I never told anyone,” Lt. Hurd said, “I think we all would like to find come closure to this."

Lt. Hurd asks anyone who thinks they may have any information about this case, to call Lewiston Police at (208) 746-0171.

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