YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — It took 20 years to identify Lina Reyes Geddes. It took another four to identify her killer.

At a joint Zoom press conference on Wednesday with city police, those with the Utah Department of Public Safety said they believe the husband of the missing Austintown woman who was found shot to death in 1998 was her killer.

Edward Geddes, who owned a business in Youngstown, died by suicide in 2001 in Nevada. Investigators said they were able to determine Geddes was her killer because they found his DNA on the rope that was used to bind her.

Lina was not identified until November 2018, after parallel investigations by UDPS Agent Brian Davis and Youngstown Police Detective Sgt. David Sweeney. Davis was trying to find the identity of the woman who was found bound and murdered on April 20, 1998, on Utah Highway 276.

Sweeney was trying to close out a missing person case into Lina’s disappearance that started in 1998 when her family in Mexico reported her missing. Her husband never reported her missing. Family members reported her missing after she was supposed to take a trip to Laredo, Texas, to visit family, but never made it.

In an Oct. 23, 1998, interview with now retired Youngstown Police Detective Sgt. Jose Morales, Sr., Edward, dressed in a blue V-neck sweater and white shirt, sips from a cup of coffee as he tells Morales he dropped his wife off at the Pittsburgh airport on April 8, 1998. He kissed her just before she walked into the airport, Edward said.

“That was the last time I saw her,” Edward said.

The interview was provided by city police to Utah authorities and is available on the UDPS home page.

Although Lina was from Austintown, city police took over the case because of Morales, who is fluent in Spanish, and it was easier for him to talk to Lina’s relatives. She also owned a business in Youngstown.

Davis said once they were able to identify Lina, they then had to figure out who killed her. The task was daunting, he said. Investigators with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office, where Lina’s body was found, worked the case for two years but had no luck in closing it out.

In 2008, the case was reopened again, this time by state authorities.

At first, it was thought Lina may have been a victim of serial killer Scott Lee Kimball of Boulder, Colorado. Kimball is responsible for at least four murders in rural Colorado and Utah between 2003-2004 and is thought to have killed more than 20 more people. He is currently serving a 70-year prison sentence for the four murders he was convicted of.

However, Davis said Kimball was ruled out as a suspect although he did not say why. Davis himself was handed the case in 2016.

As both Davis and Sweeney posted public notices looking for help in the case at about the same time, a person Sweeney called an “internet sleuth” noticed the similarities in both cases and contacted authorities in Utah and Youngstown, which helped to put investigators on the right track.

“There were a lot of moving parts in this case,” Sweeney said.

After Lina was identified, it was a major breakthrough, Davis said. It was needed because previous investigations had taken advantage of all kinds of techniques, including using a knot expert and exotic tests on the evidence, but nothing ever panned out.

“This [identification] opened up new doors for us,” Davis said. “That was a huge break in our case.”

But once she was identified, Davis said his next task was finding out who killed her.

Davis said investigators interviewed several people in Youngstown about Lina and her husband, and he also decided to retest the evidence in the case. One piece of evidence he was particularly interested in was the rope she was bound in.

A cold case analyst with UDPS got Davis in touch with a crime scene specialist in Utah who had access to special tools to test evidence. One of those tools was an M-Vac, which Davis described as a Shop Vac type device that is used on especially tough surfaces to extract DNA from, like rope.

Davis explained that the M-Vac shoots a solution onto the surface of an item, which is then extracted by the vacuum. Everything the device extracts goes into a special filter, where any DNA is separated.

The M-Vac found 117 enneagrams of DNA on the rope, Davis said, more than enough to be tested. Davis said a DNA profile can be found in just one enneagram of DNA.

When the DNA was tested, there were two different DNA profiles. Next, investigators asked for DNA samples from Geddes’ family.

Two family members gave a sample willingly but Sweeney said he had to get a search warrant to get a sample from Geddes’ son.

The DNA samples came back with a familial match to Geddes, but there was still the problem of the other DNA profile found on the rope. They entered that profile into a national database and it came back to a 2011 murder in Montana. When investigators checked out that case, they discovered the same knot expert used in Lina’s case also handled a rope that was used in the Montana case.

The expert submitted his own DNA, which matched the second sample taken from the rope. Only one profile remained; that of Geddes.

“It goes to show the science of where we’re at with DNA,” Davis said.

Davis said the case is a very emotional one for him because of the connection he made with both Lina and her family, who took Lina home in 2019 to bury her.

“These cases are very difficult. They’re tough. They can hit a lot more dead ends than successes,” Davis said. “It’s very, very fulfilling to be a part of that [solved case] and the people coming together.”

Davis said he had no idea why Edward was in Utah with Lina. He said it appeared when she was found she had not been dead very long. He said if Edward was still alive he would file murder charges against him.

Sweeney said the case speaks of the importance of cold cases and missing person cases. Although he is now a patrol supervisor and no longer in the Detective Bureau, he still heads up the department’s missing person cases. He said there are 16 open missing person cases the department is working on now and he hopes the success of Lina’s case will help spur people who have information to come forward.

“Even if there’s a small tidbit of information, it can solve the case,” Sweeney said.