DNA Taken from Truck's Door Handle in Washington Leads to Arrest 34 Years After Wisconsin Mom's Killing

On Nov. 6, 1988, Betty Rolf was walking to work in a blizzard when she was sexually assaulted and murdered, say police

betty rolf, Gene C. Meyer
Betty Rolf and Gene Meyer. Photo: Outagamie County Sheriff's Office

At about 6 a.m., amidst a raging blizzard on a November morning in 1988, Betty Rolf made the trek to her job at the former Country Aire banquet hall in Wisconsin on foot.

The 60-year-old Appleton resident never made it. Her lifeless body was found the next morning near a railroad underpass just outside the Appleton city limits, according to the Outagamie County Sheriff's Office.

She had been sexually assaulted, badly beaten and strangled.

For years, the case went cold — until recently, when the sheriff's office announced it had made an arrest in the case.

On Wednesday, Gene Meyer, 66, of Eatonville, Wash., was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault - use of a dangerous weapon in Rolf's slaying.

A former resident of Valders, Wisc., Meyer moved to Washington state after the slaying, according to the sheriff's office.

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He was taken into custody in Pierce County, Wash., and is being held at the Pierce County Jail in Tacoma. He is awaiting extradition to Wisconsin.

Rolf's granddaughter, Sue Srnka, told WBAY that she and her family are in "shock" following Meyer's arrest.

"We didn't know if this person was deceased or if this person had other crimes. We just didn't know," she said.

Authorities were able to apprehend Meyer with the use of familial DNA, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the Post-Crescent.

Back in 1988, investigators took swabs from Rolf's body and in 2001 ruled out any of her family members as suspects in her murder, according to the criminal complaint.

In 2019, thanks to advances in DNA technology, investigators used DNA evidence found on the swabs to search for possible relatives of Rolf's killer, the complaint says.

Investigators were able to narrow down their search to two people — Meyer and his brother, the complaint says.

His brother cooperated with authorities, who ruled him out, according to the complaint.

Investigators then obtained a DNA sample from the handle of Meyer's truck, which matched with swabs taken from Rolf's body, the complaint says.

Rolf's family described her as a loving mother and grandmother who "always cared about people," Srnka told the Post-Crescent.

An avid baker, Rolf's "homemade bread, rolls, pies and noodles were the envy of the neighborhood."

Police are continuing to investigate.

It is unclear whether Meyer has entered a plea or retained an attorney who can speak on his behalf.

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