DNA kit linked to man held without bail in Warwick City Park murder

    Michael Soares (WJAR)

    A Pawtucket man accused in the killing of a 66-year-old man whose body was found stuffed in a trash barrel at Warwick City Park nearly six years ago was held without bail Wednesday.

    Michael Soares, 33, was arraigned on a charge of first-degree murder in Kent County District Court.

    Soares has been accused of killing of John "Jack" Fay in 2013. Prosecutors said they matched Soares' DNA to that found on the victim’s body, as well as the trash barrel and a weapon located at the scene.

    “We are finally able to bring justice, in the form of the arrest of Soares, to the Fay family,” Col. Rick Rathbun of the Warwick Police Department later said during a press conference at police headquarters.

    Capt. Joseph Hopkins shared similar sentiments.

    “It’s a celebratory feeling,” he said. “But the real feeling is it shouldn’t have happened in the first place.”

    Authorities said Fay’s official cause of death was blunt force trauma and stabbing.

    “He was brutally murdered with two weapons,” Hopkins said.

    Police said Fay was “ambushed” while on his daily jog in City Park on May 16, 2013. His body was dragged off the path and found the next day in a trash barrel, covered with brush, behind the backstop at a ball field.

    Hopkins said Fay had been stabbed “numerous times” and hit with a custom-made hammer that weighed 2.5 pounds.

    But he said Fay also had blood under his fingernails, which led them to Soares.

    “(We) came to the scientific conclusion that Soares was the source of our assailant’s DNA,” said Hopkins.

    Investigators said Soares did not have a previous criminal record, therefore, his DNA was not in a database.

    But in April 2018, Warwick police hired IdentiFinders International, a genealogical research company in California. Using public DNA databases -- like what comes from home DNA kits -- the company told NBC 10 the killer’s DNA profile from the scene was put in the system and the closest match turned out to be a relative of Soares.

    “The person who had taken the test had a second cousin,” Colleen Fitzpatrick, who is the president of IdentiFinders International, told NBC 10. “That second cousin had a son named Michael Soares and we were able to identify him as the alleged killer.”

    Authorities then got a warrant for a DNA sample from Soares, took a cheek swab from him at his home Tuesday and sent it to the state health department, which they said confirmed the match.

    At the Rhode Island State Crime Lab at the University of Rhode Island, experts said DNA ancestry databases are changing the ways law enforcement is identifying persons of interest.

    “This is a five-year-old case. Cases that are one year old are being solved, cases that are 20 or 30 years old are being solved by this, so I think it’s a great benefit,” Dennis Hilliard, who is the director of the lab at URI, said.

    It’s something police said was crucial in terms of the arrest.

    “Without this line of investigation, we would not be solving this case any time in the near future,” Hopkins said.

    Fay’s family is glad it worked. His son, Dan, also said they’re grateful that authorities never gave up.

    “They stayed with it,” said Dan. “It’s not an easy case, you know.”

    Dan said the arrest closes one chapter but it isn’t over yet, even after nearly six years.

    “Tough, you know, you got to go day by day but, like I said, these guys have been great,” Dan said of police.

    Hopkins apologized to the family for not making an arrest sooner.

    “We never once gave up. I can ask you to accept my apologies for not solving it sooner. And I’m sorry for that,” he said.

    But Fay’s family said no apology was needed.

    “They worked with it from day one,” Dan said. “They never quit. And we appreciate it.”

    Police said they have yet to determine a motive and believe it was a random crime. They think other people may have knowledge of the murder and are asking anyone with information or knew Soares to give them a call.

    Soares' next hearing was set for Feb. 19.

    (NBC 10’s Jessica A. Botelho contributed to this report.)

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