Detectives from the Austin Police Department's Cold Case Unit shared Thursday they believe Kenneth Wayne Robbins is the man who broke into Bert Allen Mann's home and stabbed him to death on May 14, 1994.
Sgt. Melanie Rodriguez said police at that time got a blood sample from the suspect left after that violent encounter in Mann's home on Star Grass Circle. She said after police established the Cold Case Unit in 2005, the blood stain got tested for DNA.
Police sent the DNA profile to a private lab in March last year, which led to the identification of a possible suspect in June. Detectives said they found the suspect, identified as Robbins, living in Lubbock and working as a long-haul truck driver.
A detective went to the Lubbock business on Sept. 8 last year to serve a search warrant for Robbins' DNA. A few days later on Sept. 13, police got a call from the owners of the trucking company to share a truck had suspiciously not moved from a truck stop in Weatherford, Texas.
During a welfare check, law enforcement said they found Robbins dead in the truck.
APD Homicide Cold Case/Missing Persons Unit
The Austin Police Homicide Cold Case/Missing Persons Unit consists of seven detectives and one sergeant.
The unit is tasked with following all leads and evidence in unsolved cold case investigations.
Dating back to the 1960’s, APD currently has 162 unsolved cases. According to police, 30 are missing persons cases.
Genetic genealogy leads to solving of cold case
Rodriguez said despite detectives searching DNA databases and checking out more than 40 suspects over the decades, the break in the Mann murder case came last year.
She said the DNA left by the suspect was sent to independent lab Bode Technology in March of 2023. Robbins was then identified as a suspect in June 2023 through genetic genealogy, Rodriguez said.
Dr. Amy Gruszecki, a forensic pathologist with American Forensics in Mesquite, said popular test kits that are used to find relatives through DNA matching can provide helpful leads for police in cases like this.
"We have people who are looking at their genealogy, the ancestry.com, the people who are uploading their DNA for those then that is being used to solve crimes as well," Gruszecki said.
Rodriguez said genetic genealogy has yielded results in two cases the department has investigated, including the Mann murder.