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July 28, 2023Baltimore, MD, United StatesPartnership and Engagement

HSI Baltimore helps local sheriff’s office solve 44-year-old cold case murder

BALTIMORE — Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore enabled a Maryland sheriff’s office to locate and apprehend the suspect in a 1979 murder in Bryan’s Road. The Charles County Sheriff’s Office announced July 13 that officials arrested a suspect in its 44-year-old investigation into the cold case murder of Vickie Lynn Belk, 26, of Suitland.

The Charles County Sheriff’s Office used updated DNA diagnostic techniques to identify Andre Taylor, 63, of Washington, D.C., as a suspect in Belk’s murder. HSI Baltimore provided the expertise and resources necessary to locate and apprehend Taylor.

“Our partnerships with state and local law enforcement agencies are essential to ensuring safer neighborhoods for Maryland residents,” said HSI Baltimore Special Agent in Charge James C. Harris. “In this case, we were able to provide valuable resources and expertise to our partners in Charles County, Maryland, for a case they had been working for more than four decades. HSI Baltimore is always eager to assist our law enforcement partners where we can. We are all share the same mission to build better and safer Maryland communities.”

In August 1979, a teenager discovered a body on the ground in a wooded area of Bryan’s Road. Detectives positively identified Belk as the victim. During the initial investigation, authorities were proactive in recovering, processing and maintaining evidence. They worked with allied agencies and forensics labs, pursuing leads; however, the case eventually went cold.

In early 2022, the Charles County Sheriff’s Office Forensic Science Section reevaluated evidence in Belk’s case. Her clothing was submitted for testing using newer technology and officials developed a profile to enter into the Combined DNA Index System, a national DNA database.

In solving the 44-year old murder, authorities needed a search warrant for a swab of Taylor’s DNA to confirm that it matched the DNA found at the crime scene. Taylor’s whereabouts, however, were unknown.

HSI Baltimore offered its manpower and resources to lend a hand in the investigation. HSI assisted in locating Taylor where local authorities’ efforts proved unsuccessful.

HSI Baltimore discovered a trail of federal assistance income that Taylor had been receiving and served a subpoena on the financial institution that had been sending him money. This confirmed that Taylor was alive and was located in Washington, D.C.

Charles County Sheriff’s Office and Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police detectives used the evidence that HSI Baltimore collected to locate and interview Taylor about Belk. During questioning, authorities served Taylor with a search warrant for a DNA swab. The DNA swab proved to be the vital link between Taylor and the 1979 murder because it matched DNA evidence found on Belk’s clothes.

“This case occurred more than four decades ago and yet the detectives and forensics personnel never gave up,” said Charles County Sheriff Troy D. Berry. “They continuously looked for ways to identify a suspect. This arrest serves as a reminder of our commitment to doing everything we can to solve crimes. We never give up. We never stop seeking justice for victims.”

This joint investigation was conducted by HSI Baltimore; the Charles County Sheriff’s Office; the U.S. Marshals Service’s Capital Area Regional Task Force; the Maryland State Police’s Forensic Sciences Division; and the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department with significant assistance from the U.S. Secret Service, the Charles County State’s Attorney’s Office, BODE Technology and Sorenson Forensics. The DNA analysis was partly funded by the Department of Justice’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program.

HSI is the principal investigative arm of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), responsible for investigating transnational crime and threats, specifically those criminal organizations that exploit the global infrastructure through which international trade, travel, and finance move. HSI’s workforce of more than 8,700 employees consists of more than 6,000 special agents assigned to 237 cities throughout the United States, and 93 overseas locations in 56 countries. HSI’s international presence represents DHS’s largest investigative law enforcement presence abroad and one of the largest international footprints in U.S. law enforcement.