CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE – Cold-case investigators spent decades trying to match DNA evidence to a man who sexually assaulted a vacationer found slain in Wildwood in May 1990.
That search ended in June 2021, when detectives matched the DNA to a sample taken a month earlier from Jerry Rosado of Millville.
But a court record indicates the DNA link wasn’t enough to accuse Rosado, 62, of sexually assaulting Susan Negersmith, a New York woman who died while visiting Wildwood with friends.
Instead, Rosado was charged after investigators spoke in earlier this year with a man who had tried to help Negersmith hours before her death.
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The man, who’d been interviewed when Negersmith’s body was found behind a restaurant on May 27, 1990, “reiterated” in a February interview that the Carmel woman had become “extremely intoxicated” at a party during the Memorial Day weekend, says a statement giving probable cause for the charge against Rosado.
The man, whose name was not disclosed, also recounted trying without success to escort Negersmith to the motel where she was staying with friends. He “eventually left her in the area which she was subsequently discovered the next day,” the statement says.
Negersmith “was so intoxicated that she was incapable of consenting to sex,” the man told investigators.
An autopsy report in 1990 found the woman’s blood alcohol level was 0.285, or more than three times the legal limit of 0.08 percent for intoxication.
The suspect’s DNA was found “vaginally” and on Negersmith’s fingernails, the statement says.
A criminal complaint says Rosado, a resident of the 100 block of Riverside Drive, is charged with sexually assaulting Negersmith by engaging in sex when he knew or should have known the woman “was physically incapacitated due to alcohol.”
The charge is only an allegation. Rosado has not been convicted in the case.
An investigation into Negersmith’s homicide is ongoing, according to the Cape May County Prosecutor’s Office.
Investigators tied the DNA to Rosado after turning to Parabon NanoLabs Inc., a Virginia firm.
One of its services, which combines genetic analysis and genealogical research, identified Rosado as a person of interest in the cold case.
A DNA sample was taken from the Millville man on May 26, 2021 — one day before the 30th anniversary of the discovery of Negersmith’s body.
Parabon NanoLabs’ genetic genealogy service compares a DNA sample to an online DNA database, looking to find possible relatives “and how closely related they are,” the Reston firm’s website says.
“This information can then be cross-referenced with other data sources used in traditional genealogical research, such as census records, vital records, obituaries and newspaper archives,” it says.
Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other beats for the Courier-Post, Burlington County Times and The Daily Journal.
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