WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Police in Warwick say a genealogical research company and a public DNA database helped crack a nearly six-year-old unsolved murder case.
Michael Soares, 33, was ordered held without bail Wednesday after he was arraigned on a first-degree murder charge in the 2013 death of John “Jack” Fay. He’s due back in court Feb. 19.
“Today is a bittersweet day for our agency, as well as the city,” Chief Rick Rathbun said. “While the killer is in custody, we still acknowledge the loss of one of our residents in a senseless act of violence that has impacted our entire community.”
Fay, 66, was a retired postal worker and a Vietnam veteran, according to Capt. Joseph Hopkins. He said Fay went for a run in Warwick City Park on May 16, 2013, and was ambushed in an isolated part of the path around 4:30 a.m.
“Jack was a large, fit man who fought back, but succumbed to his injuries,” Hopkins said.
Fay’s body was discovered inside a barrel about 36 hours after the murder. The cause of his death was ruled to be stab wounds and blunt force trauma, which Hopkins said came from a 2.5-pound hammer that was found at the scene.
In 2018, police hired IdentiFinders International – a California-based genealogical research company – to assist with the investigation into DNA found in blood splatter, on the surface of the hammer, and under Fay’s fingernails, according to Hopkins.
The captain said Soares was found to be the only male in his lineage that matched the DNA profile, so police obtained a search warrant for his DNA.
After examining the DNA, Hopkins said the R.I. Department of Health concluded that Soares was the source of the assailant’s DNA.
While recent advancements in DNA technology allowed police to identify a suspect, they said it was a lack of motive that kept them in the dark for so long.
“When you have physical evidence and you don’t have a motive and you don’t have a suspect, it makes it real hard to find who your suspect could possibly be,” Hopkins said. “It’s very frustrating not to have a motive.”
According to Hopkins, Soares had numerous police contacts in the years surrounding the murder, but all were non-criminal and had to do with him being homeless. He said at the time, Soares was living out of his truck in various lots and parks throughout the area. Hopkins also noted that the truck is a green 1998 Ford Ranger pickup that was spray-painted black at some point.
Police said the investigation is very active and there’s still lots of evidence to go through.
“We will not stop in this investigation until we come to a complete end,” Hopkins said. “I can tell you these detectives here have worked tirelessly throughout these years. We never once gave up.”
While the arrest may have come as a relief to some, Rathbun said there may never really be closure for those who knew Fay.
“I don’t think there will ever be closure for Jack’s family,” he said. “There won’t be closure on the part of the department or the city.”
In the meantime, members of the community said they were relieved to know the potential killer is behind bars.