DNA Evidence Leads to Arrest of Joe Barber in 1984 Murder Case

DNA evidence nearly 30 years old helped MPD detectives close a cold case homicide with the arrest Tuesday of a suspect.

At a press conference Tuesday evening, Assistant D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said that it was new technology to analyze DNA that led police to fifty-five-year-old Joe Anthony Barber, charging him with the January 1, 1984 stabbing death of Rachel Cox.

Cox was 43 years old the day she was killed. Found dead in her home, Cox’ body also showed signs of sexual assault.

In January 2013, evidence was submitted from Cox’s autopsy for DNA analysis “using the latest technology” said Newsham. Genetic materials from that analysis matched Barber, who is a registered sex offender, Newsham said. On November 4, MPD issued a warrant for his arrest on a charge of first degree felony murder.

Detectives don’t believe that there was a interpersonal connection between Cox and Barber, Newsham said.

Barber’s arrest Tuesday was part of a joint investigation undertaken by the Metropolitan Police Department, the DC Department of Forensic science, and the United States Attorney’s Office.

“There is a lot of work that goes into these cases,” Newsham explained. “Even when you get a DNA hit or a piece of forensic evidence that tests positive, there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Newsham called the arrest “good news” and told reporters that he expects other cases to be solved soon.

***Correction: Due to an reporting error, this story originally misrepresented Cox’s age. She was 43 years old at the time of her death.

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