SANTEE, Calif. – A DNA match has identified a suspect in the decades-old sexual assault and strangulation murder of a 20-year-old Santee woman, whose case went cold through the years after leads were exhausted, San Diego County sheriff’s deputies said Wednesday.
Investigators say they’ve found “substantial and convincing evidence” that ties John Patrick “Pat” Hogan to the assault and murder of Michelle Louise Wyatt, who was found dead Oct. 9, 1980 by a roommate at her condominium complex at 10586 Kerrigan Court in Santee. The case was reviewed several times in the past 40 years and though seminal fluid and the telephone cord used to kill Wyatt were recovered, a clear suspect in the case never emerged, sheriff’s Lt. Thomas Seiver said in a department news release.
“She was a very outgoing young lady,” Wyatt’s 81-year-old mother Margaret Wyatt told FOX 5. “She was not street smart and I often told her, you know, ‘Michelle, you’ve got to be very, very careful. There’s a lot of bad people out there, honey.”
An autopsy conducted by the Medical Examiner’s Office found that Wyatt’s cause of death was asphyxiation due to strangulation and the manner of death was determined to be a homicide.
Hogan, a U.S. Air Force veteran, died in 2004 at age 42 without ever being publicly identified as a suspect in Wyatt’s murder. A native of Arizona, he moved to Santee in the 1970s, attending Santana High School, and may have lived in the same complex as Wyatt at one point, Seiver said.
Investigators say Hogan was living about a mile from the complex at the time of the murder and was said to “frequently” visit friends who were living there.
Hogan was identified by authorities using investigative genetic genealogy in a process that began in September 2020. Seiver said the technique — typically done when other avenues have been exhausted — involved uploading the unknown DNA profile to commercial genealogy sites and developing family histories in “trees,” leading detectives to potential relatives.
“This process eventually led investigators to closer relatives and ended with contacting John’s direct relatives who provided DNA samples, which confirmed the identification,” Seiver said.
Margaret Wyatt said she’s thankful to investigators, but that she doesn’t have closure after learning that Hogan had died. She says there isn’t a Sunday that goes by where she doesn’t visit her daughter at Mt. Hope Cemetery.
“I was glad that he wasn’t around to hurt somebody else, but I’m still lost,” she said.
Through the years, detectives attempted several ways of identifying potentials suspects. In 1996, some 90 potential suspects were contacted and interviewed, according to Seiver, with many of them providing biological samples for examination, but a suspect was not identified. Four years later, items in evidence was reexamined with tests identifying that two separate DNA profiles were present at the scene.
Seiver said one of those profiles was Wyatt’s boyfriend, who’d left the condominium and locked the front door on the day she was killed. He soon was eliminated as a suspect.
The other DNA profile was from an unidentified male subject, but it didn’t lead to an arrest in the case. The following year, the profile was entered into the Combined DNA Index System, Seiver said.
“Michelle’s murder would likely have gone unsolved if not for the use of investigative genetic genealogy,” Seiver said.
Upon identifying Hogan, the department thanked members of the public who were contacted during the course of the investigation for their cooperation. The investigation is ongoing with the department’s Cold Case team now looking to speak to anyone with information on the murder or who knew Hogan in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Anyone with information is asked to call the Homicide Unit at 858-285-6330 or after hours at 858-565-5200. Tips also can be submitted anonymously through Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.