Police: Newly found blood sample solves 1988 homicide

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — Police said they solved the murder of a Battle Creek woman more than 30 years later, after a newly discovered blood sample connected a man to the fatal stabbing.

But no charges will be filed because Roger Plato was killed in 1988, three days before Gayle Barrus’ body was found by hunters in Calhoun County, prosecutor David Gilbert said.

Nonetheless, Barrus’ family is relieved that authorities believe the case has been solved.

“I am just going to exhale and pray and tell my mom it’s done,” James Barrus of Dayton, Ohio, told the Battle Creek Enquirer. “She can rest knowing we have the answers, and we don’t have to wait until we meet her again.”

Gayle Barrus, 30, was last seen alive at a Battle Creek coffee shop. Her body was found 16 days later along a road. Police said she was sexually assaulted and stabbed to death.

A few days before the discovery, Roger Plato was interviewed by police about a different assault. He was shot and killed while trying to flee, the Enquirer reported. Investigators subsequently took a blood sample.

The case was cold until James Barrus contacted Battle Creek police in 2018 to ask about it. Detective Scott Marshall, who looked at unsolved cases, reopened the file. He learned that Plato’s DNA had never been tested.

In 2020, Sgt. Chris Bacik of the county sheriff’s department was taking an inventory of evidence at the department and found blood that was taken from Plato after he was killed. A state police lab connected the blood to DNA found on Gayle Barrus, Marshall said.

“He is our killer,” Marshall said. “If we were to submit charges today it would be open homicide against Plato and a charge of criminal sexual conduct.”

James Barrus said he hopes to travel to Battle Creek in spring to thank Marshall.

“It will be our way to close this chapter and gather with family and friends at her grave,” he said. “It won’t change the past, but it takes a weight off our shoulders to get this answered.”

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