December 01, 2021

December 1, 2021

On September 23 1981, 13-year-old Heather Porter went missing from her Halethorpe neighborhood. A day later, a man walking his dog discovered the teen’s body in a wooded area near Ridgewood Road and Goucher Boulevard in Towson. Based on the condition of the victim’s body, investigators believed the person responsible dragged the girl’s body into the woods. An autopsy later determined the teen had been strangled and sexually assaulted.

While detectives had a DNA sample of the suspect, it has taken decades and advancements in DNA technology to identify a suspect.

Last year, Baltimore County detectives with the BCoPD Homicide Cold Case Squad, reviewed the Porter case and requested the suspect’s DNA profile be submitted for forensic genealogy. Bode Technology analyzed the sample and forwarded their results to the FBI for further analysis.

In February of 2021, results identified John Anthony Petrecca, Jr., as a possible suspect in the murder of 13-year-old Heather Porter. A check of Petrecca’s criminal history showed prior arrests for rape in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Baltimore County Homicide Cold Case detectives determined, at the time of the killing, Petrecca resided in the 100 block of Ridge Ave., in Halethorpe, Maryland. The location is a short distance from where Heather Porter was last seen.

In an effort to identify Porter’s killer, detectives obtained written authorization from the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s Office to exhume Petrecca’s remains.

On the morning of March 11, 2021, police personnel and members from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner gathered at a local cemetery in Baltimore County where Petrecca was buried in 2000.

DNA recovered during the exhumation process was sent to Bode Technology for processing. On November 12, 2021, detectives learned the DNA obtained from Petrecca matched that of the suspect’s DNA profile.

As a result of advances in forensic technology, Heather Porter’s family members now know the identity of the person who took their loved ones life. The Baltimore County Police Department would like to thank Bode Technology, the Hackerman Foundation and the FBI for their expert analysis, assistance and support in solving this cold case.