Denver cops make arrest in 20-year-old cold case homicide at a motel

cumberbatch
Source: Denver District Attorney's Office, Unsplash

Jun. 28 2021, Published 5:21 p.m. ET

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Rita Desjardine’s body was found in a Denver motel room on Dec. 7, 1994. For 20 years, her case was cold. That changed in recent weeks when police say they arrested her killer.

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Prosecutors with the Denver District Attorney’s Office Cold Case Unit announced that Steven Cumberbatch, 58, is charged in connection to Desjardine’s murder. 

He was extradited from Virginia and is now in Denver to face charges.

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Desjardine was 36 years old when her body was found by members of the Denver Police Department in her motel room.

Investigators say they never gave up on finding Desjardine’s killer, but the case remained unsolved. In July 2018, the Denver Police Department’s Crime Lab got a lead connecting Cumberbatch to DNA evidence at the scene.

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A witness reported seeing a man matching Cumberbatch’s description leaving the hotel room prior to the discovery of the victim’s body, according to the district attorney's office.

Officials did not detail if there was a relationship between Cumberbatch and the victim.

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In October 2019, the National Institute of Justice awarded a $500,000 grant that will help Denver authorities solve violent crime cold cases when a suspect is identified, but prosecutors have not yet been able to file charges.

“Violent crime cold cases are among the most challenging of all cases,” said Denver District Attorney Beth McCann. “This federal funding was key to building the case that led to charging Steven Cumberbatch with the murder of Rita Desjardine.”

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“I am proud of the collaboration between the Cold Case Units of DPD and the DA’s Office and the DPD Crime Laboratory that this grant is enabling,” said Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen. “The work being done under this grant is innovative and important for our community.”

Cumberbatch has been charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

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