Cuyahoga Falls Police Get DNA Help To Crack 30-Year-Old Cold Case

James E. Zastawnik mug shot
Cuyahoga Falls Police arrested 67-year-old James E. Zastawnik Wednesday in 30-year-old cold case murder of Barbara Blatnik. [Cuyahoga Falls Police Department]

Cuyahoga Falls Police have made an arrest in the 1987 murder of 17-year-old Barbara Blatnik, who was found in a wooded area near Blossom Music Center.

James Zastawnik, 67, of Cleveland, was charged with first degree murder Wednesday.

Police worked with the Porchlight Project and the state to find new evidence through advancements in DNA technology to crack the cold case.

On Dec. 20, 1987, Cuyahoga Falls Police responded to a report of a female who was found deceased in a wooded area off O’Neil Road, near Blossom Music Center. Detectives investigated countless leads over 30 years but the case went cold.

“It is great to see justice done for Barbara Blatnik. The detectives who worked on this over the years never gave up on finding the killer, especially Det. [Randy] Tlumac. This is also a great example of cooperation between law enforcement, the Porchlight Project, and BCI coming together to creatively look for a solution to resolving a brutal murder,” Police Chief Jack Davis said.

Cuyahoga Falls Police, Ohio BCI, Identifinders International, and The Porchlight Project combined efforts were able to provide much-needed closure to the Blatnik family.

“I am incredibly proud of the work that our Cuyahoga Falls Police Department has done to help ensure that Barbara Blatnik’s family can finally find the closure that they deserve,” said Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters. “I want to express an immense amount of gratitude to everyone at The Porchlight Project for the funding that they provided to help get the needed DNA testing that was done to close this case. They have done an incredible service to the Blatnik family and our Police Department.”

The Porchlight Project is a nonprofit that provides assistance to families of missing and murdered people in Ohio. The group paid to have the DNA from under Blatink’s fingernails tested by Identifinders International, a private company  founded by scientist Colleen Fitzpatrick, who also started the nonprofit DNA Doe Project.

“We were very pleased to work with the Cuyahoga Falls Police using Genetic Genealogy to bring closure to the Blatnik family,” Fitzpatrick said Wednesday.

Anyone with more information pertaining to the case is asked to contact the Cuyahoga Falls Police Detective Bureau at 330-971-8318.

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