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Published On: Wed, Nov 21st, 2018

DNA links serial rapist Michael Sumpter to 1969 Cold Case murder of Harvard student Jane Britton

A Massachusetts district attorney announced Tuesday afternoon that the 1969 cold case murder of a Harvard University student has finally been solved thanks to forensic DNA testing. Serial rapist Michael Sumpter has been linked to evidence in the brutal sexual assault and murder of Jane Britton in 1969.

Britton, 23, was found dead in her Cambridge apartment on Jan. 7, 1969.

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan announced the news: “The mystery has finally been solved.”

“For the past 50 years, the murder of Jane Britton has intrigued members of the public and posed a number of investigatory challenges for law enforcement,” Ryan said. “I am today confident that the mystery of who killed Jane Britton has finally been solved.”

Ryan recapped that night before her body was found, Britton had gone to dinner with classmates and went ice skating with her boyfriend in Cambridge. Britton then visited her neighbors’ apartment across the hall, where she had a glass of sherry and picked up her cat.

Britton’s boyfriend went to check on her after she failed to show up for an exam. Officials said she was found sexually assaulted on her blood-stained mattress, suffering from multiple blunt force injuries to her head.

The alcohol that Britton drank at her neighbors’ apartment also had not yet metabolized in her stomach, indicating to investigators that she had been killed “relatively shortly” after returning to her apartment, Ryan said.

Britton’s murder is the third killing that Sumpter has been linked to since his death from cancer in 2001 at the age of 54.

Michael Sumpter and Jane Britton

Ryan explained that there’s no indication that Sumpter and Britton knew each other, but Sumpter was working on a street near her Harvard Square apartment at the time of her death.

“Over time as people’s memories faded and witnesses died it became even more difficult to follow up on new investigatory leads,” Ryan said. Today we are able to provide closure to Jane’s family, friends and those who knew her.

“Never give up on a case,” she added. “No matter what the passage of time may be.”

Britton was studying anthropology at Harvard, and her father was at the time a vice president at Radcliffe College, a women’s school in Cambridge that later merged with Harvard.

Britton’s brother, The Rev. Boyd R. Britton, released a statement after the announcement:

“A half-century of mystery and speculation has clouded the brutal crime that shattered Jane’s promising young life and our family. The DNA evidence match may be all we ever have as a conclusion. Learning to understand and forgive remains a challenge,” said Britton.

In October 2012, the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office identified Sumpter as the assailant in the Dec. 12, 1973 homicide and sexual assault of 24-year-old Mary Lee McClain at her Beacon Hill apartment in Boston.

About the Author

- Roxanne "Butter" Bracco began with the Dispatch as Pittsburgh Correspondent, but will be providing reports and insights from Washington DC, Maryland and the surrounding region. Contact Roxie aka "Butter" at [email protected] ATTN: Roxie or Butter Bracco

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  1. martin says:

    people need extinction we destroy everything its never nearer roll on death maybe then we find real piece and happiness for ever more eternal rest as long as we survive nothing is safe as progress can only bring extinction closer

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