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DNA testing leads to former US Army soldier from Nebraska in 1978 killing of woman in Germany

DNA
Posted at 4:01 PM, Jul 07, 2023

DNA testing has led to the arrest of a Nebraska man who was repeatedly questioned over decades in the 1978 stabbing death of a woman while he was stationed with the U.S. Army in Germany, authorities said.

Tommy Molina, 69, was arrested in the western Nebraska city of Gering on June 21, the U.S. Marshals Service in Omaha said in a statement Thursday. He is awaiting extradition to Germany to face a murder charge.

German prosecutors in the Bavarian city of Schweinfurt believe Molina, 24 at the time, was having an extramarital affair with 18-year-old Cornelia Hümpfer when she was killed April 20, 1978.

He was initially questioned days after the killing and then again in 1996, after he told his third wife, while intoxicated, that a woman with whom he'd been having an affair had revealed she was pregnant and that he killed her, authorities said in a complaint unsealed at his initial appearance June 30 in federal court in Lincoln, Nebraska.

If extradited, Molina will face murder charges in Germany that could lead to at least 15 years in prison. A date for his next hearing has not been set.

His public defender in the extradition case did not immediately return a call Friday seeking comment.

The case is laid out in the complaint, which seeks his extradition and includes documents from German prosecutors, the U.S. Army and the FBI.

The day after Hümpfer was killed, her body was discovered on a roadside with 14 stab wounds in the neck and back. A witness said she had seen a small car with a green license plate used by the American military near where the woman's body was found. The vehicle description matched the Fiat 124 Molina owned at the time.

German authorities questioned Molina five days after the killing but didn't move forward with charges. He said he had been at home with his wife that night, and the wife said she couldn't remember the night.

For years, investigators made little progress until U.S. military authorities received new information, German prosecutors said.

In 1995, according to the complaint, Molina's third wife contacted U.S. Army criminal investigators in Fort Riley, Kansas, alleging that an intoxicated Molina repeatedly told her he had killed a German woman with a knife while stationed in Schweinfurt. He told her that he had been having an affair with her, and that she had said she was pregnant and intended to tell his wife.

Molina strongly denied involvement when questioned again in 1996, and the investigation moved slowly after that.

Later, the availability of new DNA technology led investigators to reopen the file.

They got a blood sample from Molina in 2020 under a federal search warrant and confirmed that genetic traces from the suspect were on key parts of the victim's clothing, German prosecutors said.

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Karnowski reported from Minneapolis and Jordans from Berlin.

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