Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said the South St. Paul man arrested Tuesday in connection with a 27-year-old Minneapolis cold case is now charged with murder.
Donald Clifton Jenkins, Jr., 56, is accused of killing Belinda Thompson, who was 20 years old when she was found dead in the bedroom her Whittier-neighborhood apartment Dec. 19, 1991. An autopsy found seven stab wounds to the front of her body and an additional four stab wounds to her back.
Now being held in the Hennepin County Jail, Jenkins is expected to make his first court appearance today on charges of second-degree murder. He is linked to the murder through DNA evidence and allegedly acknowledged his guilt to investigators.
Minneapolis police and the FBI jointly announced Jenkins’ arrest Tuesday. The arrest followed a yearlong review of the unsolved murder and additional forensic testing of evidence by the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
“We appreciate the tenacious detective work of the Minneapolis Police Department and the FBI on this case and intend to bring Mr. Jenkins to justice,” Freeman said in a statement issued Thursday. “Although it does not change what happened to Ms. Thompson, we hope it will bring some closure to her family who have suffered with not knowing who murdered her for so many years.”
Thompson lived in an apartment on the 2800 block of Grand Avenue South. According to the Hennepin County Attorney’s office and the criminal complaint in the case, investigators searched the apartment after her death and found a partially open kitchen drawer; inside, one knife appeared to be missing from a set of knives. A bloody knife that matched the set was found tucked into a couch.
Investigators also found a wet, bloodstained washrag resting on the edge of the sink in the apartment’s bathroom, according to the criminal complaint.
The complaint goes on to say Jenkins was a friend of Thompson’s then-boyfriend and was interviewed by police during the initial 1991 investigation. At the time, Jenkins said he had met Thompson through her boyfriend and that he had been at the apartment before, adding that he had loaned the boyfriend his car. Jenkins told investigators he learned of her death the following day.
Police investigated the case until it went cold in 1992.
In 2008, the bloody washrag was sent to the BCA for DNA testing. Investigators obtained a sample of Jenkins’ DNA in 2010 after he was extradited to Minnesota from Mississippi.
In an interview with Jenkins, investigators told him the DNA sample would be compared to a sample taken from the washrag. When asked if the samples would match, according to the complaint, Jenkins’ response was, “Let’s find out!”
A comparison of the samples excluded 99.1 percent of the population, but not Jenkins, according to the complaint.
Jenkins called investigators shortly after the interview to claim he had once cut his knuckle while working on a car at Thompson’s apartment, according to the criminal complaint. Jenkins said he wiped his knuckle on a washcloth.
Additional testing in 2018 of the washrag discovered at the scene found an increased likelihood that Jenkins’ DNA was present. Confronted again this year, Jenkins allegedly admitted to the crime, saying, “My DNA is there, I did it,” according to the complaint.
Jenkins allegedly told investigators he was “chasing dope” when he went to Thompson’s apartment and didn’t expect anyone to be home.