Police: No new leads in Southworth murder case

Some items have been sent to lab for DNA testing

jkegley@herald-leader.comNovember 5, 2010 

  • Tips sought

    Anyone with information about the Umi Southworth case should call Lexington police at (859) 258-3600.

After nearly five months, the search for Umi Southworth's killer has yet to turn up any suspects.

Investigators have reviewed evidence and sent off several items for forensic testing. Detectives also have questioned multiple people. But police have not charged anyone or named any suspects, Police Lt. James Curless said.

"Obviously I would have hoped we would have already been there, but the facts and the evidence isn't there for us to make the charge at this time," Curless said. "We're still working on it."

Southworth was found behind her home at 1486 Meadowthorpe Avenue on June 9. Officers went to the four-plex to conduct a welfare check because Southworth, an accountant, didn't show up for work at Fazoli's corporate headquarters on Palumbo Drive.

Officers found the woman about 7:45 p.m. and thought she was dead. According to police reports, it appeared that she had been attacked with a "large piece of wood." She died the next day.

Investigators searched the Southworths' home, taking some undisclosed items. Umi Southworth's husband, Don, was questioned at police headquarters, but he was released.

Curless said other people have been interviewed. He declined to discuss any details about those who were interviewed.

In July, detectives submitted several items to the Kentucky State Police crime lab in Frankfort for DNA testing. Earlier this week, lab director Laura Sudkamp said Lexington police had submitted seven samples in the Southworth case. Six of those tests have been completed, she said. The seventh sample is almost complete.

Investigators will not discuss the evidence that was submitted.

"There are certain pieces of information that only detectives, lawyers and the actual suspect will know," Lexington police spokeswoman Sherelle Roberts said.

Investigators said a homicide investigation — or any investigation, for that matter — can take weeks, months or years, but this case has left many neighbors and friends without closure. It also has left them uneasy because a killer is loose.

"I'm very disturbed that the person who did this appears, at this point, to be getting away with this," said Bob Layton, chairman of the Meadowthorpe neighborhood crime watch.

Joe Collins, head of the Meadowthorpe Neighborhood Association, said several people have told him they have a hard time understanding what is happening.

"The question that I'm constantly getting (from neighbors) is, 'What is taking so long?'" he said.

Curless said he could not estimate how long it would take to make an arrest.

"There's no definition, there's no way that I can just look at line 32 and tell you it's going to be in a week," he said. "That just doesn't work that way. The evidence and the facts have to drive and define that investigation."

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