KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Kansas City Police Chief Darryl Forte says a "serial killer in the making" has been taken off the streets. Now he is honoring the work that went into the case by presenting a rare Chief's coin to a DNA Technical Leader in the crime lab for the long hours she put in.
Investigators working this case say they knew if they didn't find the suspect, he would kill again.
So, for two months, a DNA Tech at KCPD's crime lab spent hundreds of hours analyzing dozens of genetic profiles, until finally a match was made.
But Jennifer Howard says she didn't do it alone.
Almost two years ago, 40-year-old Tamara Sparks was found dead in Kansas City's Northland. Last August, another body found in Kearney. It was another sex worker, 24-year-old Nicoleone Reed. The two cases were linked with the help of Howard.
"We were just hoping to see what we could do to develop a suspect because we knew the profile was being searched in CODUS already which means it wasnt going to hit to a convicted offender," she said.
Police believed they had a serial killer in the making but the list of potential suspects had to be narrowed down, and that's where Howard came in.
"It was going to take investigative work to find the suspects and my job as the DNA analyst was to determine whether those were really the perp or eliminate them as potential suspects," she said.
Working around the clock, Howard tested 37 DNA samples brought to her by police investigators and eliminated at least 13 others with the help of CODIS.
Then last month, a tip came in and investigators again turned to Howard.
Howard says she got a call from an investigator saying "Hey we have a lead on a potential suspect, we're going to try to get his buckle at such and such a time.
This time the genetic profile was a match.
"And that was a really, in this particular instance it was a really good phone call to make because I had made so many phone calls that it wasn't the right guy," shes said.
With Howards help, 27-year-old Derek Richardson is charged with two counts of first degree murder and two counts of abandonment of a corpse. Howard says by no means did she do it alone.
"Its a relief mostly just because we know we got a killer off the street," she said.
Howard was presented the Chief's coin in a private ceremony on Wednesday.
There were at least 10 other people on the task force to find Richardson, and dozens of others supporting them. Investigators believe Richardson may have more victims and are in contact with law enforcement outside the area also trying to connect the dots.