Englewood police are expected to announce a suspect in the Alie Berrelez murder case on Tuesday morning.
The 5-year-old girl disappeared on May 18, 1993, from the Golden Nugget apartment complex on Grand Avenue in Englewood. Her body was found four days later stuffed in a duffel bag and tossed down a ravine in Deer Creek Canyon in Jefferson County.
Englewood police said in a news release on Monday that DNA results have led to a suspect. Police said Tuesday's news conference would provide further details.
Sources told CALL7 Investigators Monday night that the DNA links a man who was considered a person of interest in the original case and who has since died.
Richard Berrelez, the girls grandfather said hes taking a wait and see approach to the announcement.
Ive been patient for 18 years, Berrelez told 7NEWS. Im not going to be surprised. Ive had my thoughts, my guesses. If the information is going to help solve this case then Im glad for it.
Dogged Detectives Break Case
"This break was due to the diligence of our detectives and their persistence in solving this case. Detectives hung in there and with technology were able to do something with this case," Detective Brad Johnson of the Englewood Police Department told 7NEWS. "We hope this will provide some closure to the family."
Johnson would not say who the suspect is or whether an arrest has been made.
"The Chief will talk about that tomorrow [Tuesday]," Johnson said. "We'll have a chronological order of events and pictures."
When Berrelez disappeared, family and friends searched door to door in the neighborhood, but it was a police bloodhound named Yogi that tracked Alie's scent from the apartment complex 10 miles to the canyon. Berrelez's body was found one mile away from where Yogi had stopped.
The day after Berrelez's body was found, Yogi returned to Deer Creek Canyon and traced the scent back to a neighborhood apartment in the Englewood complex where Berrelez had lived, leading police to believe that a neighbor committed the crime, according to the ALIE Foundation website.
Only Named Suspect Is Dead
The only person previously named as a suspect in the girl's killing was Nicholas Randolph Stofer, 41. Stofer once lived in the Englewood apartment complex where Alie lived with her mother and two brothers.
Stofer was a welder, and police said they found metal shavings in the duffel bag in which Alie's body was found.
On Oct. 10, 2001, Stofer was found dead of apparent natural causes in his Phoenix apartment, according to the Denver Post.
At the time, Englewood police said they asked officers in Arizona to go through Stofer's belongings after his death. Police said nothing was found that referred to Alie, the Rocky reported.
Early in the investigation, Englewood police extradited Stofer from San Diego in a drunken-driving case. But the warrant made no reference to the Berrelez case.
Police sought murder charges against Stofer, but Arapahoe County prosecutors concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to proceed. Stofer's lawyer has steadfastly asserted his client's innocence.
During an interview with 7NEWS in 1994, Stofer said, Ive seen kids out there. Ive never paid attention to them.
Stofer claimed that just before Alie disappeared, he was talking a neighbor then went inside.
I went into my apartment, laid down and watched TV and dozed off, he said.
When asked if he thought Stofer was the killer, Berrelez said, I dont know. Im trying to keep an open mind.
Berrelez said he always had faith that law enforcement would solve this case, but said that faith was tested at times.
There was a point where I was upset, he said. I was upset with law enforcement and with the neighborhood.
How can a child be abducted and taken away without anybody seeing anything? he asked. I used to think that law enforcement could solve any case with the information they had. I later learned that in some cases it takes a lot of time.
Family Creates ALIE Foundation
The Berrelez family created the ALIE Foundation
to reach out to children and parents concerning the dangers of stranger child abduction, to offer safety awareness classes and to make available purebred bloodhounds to police departments that can be trained to assist in missing and abducted children cases.
To date, the foundation has helped place more than 300 dogs with police and sheriff departments.
Grandfather Suspects 2 Or 3 People Know What Happened
Berrelez told 7NEWS he believes there are two or three other people out there who know what happened that day.
He said in 2008 that it was a matter of those people coming forward or police using new DNA technology to solve the crime.
"They have Alie's belongings, they have the duffel bag. There has to be evidence there," he said.
For years, Berrelez has been patient.
"I'm patient to the point that even if it were to be solved five, 10 or 15 years from now, it would still be good, because somebody would still be brought to justice," Berrelez said in 2008.
"She was an active little girl. She brought life to the family," he said.
The ALIE Foundation website said Alie was a spunky 5-year-old girl with dimples when she laughed and soft, doe-like eyes that sparkled below a ragged fringe of coffee-colored hair.
Alie loved to fly kites, to dance to Little Richard songs, and to watch "The Little Mermaid" on television, the website said.
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