Commander Rob Lamoureux speaks about his experience working on Jennifer Brinkman homicide case on Nov. 29, in Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Commander Rob Lamoureux speaks about his experience working on Jennifer Brinkman homicide case on Nov. 29, in Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Suspect in 1998 Marysville homicide cold case released on $250K bond

Four days after his arrest, Jeffrey Premo, 52, was no longer in custody. He remains a suspect in the killing of Jennifer Brinkman, 19.

MARYSVILLE — The suspect in a Marysville cold case homicide spent less than a week in jail before he posted bond and was released from custody Friday.

Jeffrey Premo, 52, of Renton, was arrested Nov. 28 for investigation of first-degree murder in the killing of Jennifer Brinkman more than 20 years ago.

He posted $250,000 bond and was released from jail four days later, around 10:45 p.m. Friday.

On March 21, 1998, Brinkman was found dead in her bedroom in the 1900 block of Grove Street in Marysville. The young woman had suffered ax wounds to her neck and body. Evidence collected at the crime scene suggested there was a struggle before Brinkman was killed, police wrote.

Brinkman, 19, was living with her father at the time. The father and his girlfriend had taken a week-long trip to California. Upon returning home, they discovered Brinkman’s body.

A bloody ax with a wooden handle was near the bed, according to a police report. The father reported he was “certain” the ax was in the garage when he left on his trip.

There was no evidence of forced entry at the crime scene, a police report reads. Evidence suggested Brinkman had likely been dead for several days.

Police collected evidence and canvassed the area. Leads ran cold.

Before her death, Brinkman spent time on telephone dating and internet chat lines. She had been looking for a romantic partner, police said, based on witness statements and journal entries collected from Brinkman’s room.

Investigators believe Brinkman met Premo through a chat line. In the initial investigation, detectives found a letter dated March 10, 1998, addressed to Brinkman with a return address at Premo’s Bellevue home.

Evidence suggested Premo made plans to meet Brinkman, two weeks before the killing.

In an interview that year, Brinkman’s mother told authorities her daughter had made plans to meet a man “from the chat lines” for a date at the movies, police wrote. The callback number left on the mother’s voicemail matched the phone number Premo listed in his letter to Brinkman.

A year after the killing, a detective reportedly called Premo. The detective reported Premo told her he met Brinkman through a chat line but never had any personal contact with her, police wrote.

In a statement dated April 29, 1999, Premo reportedly told police, “I, Jeff Premo Don’t recall talking with the girl. On average I speak with about 12 girls every time I get on the chat.”

The police report does not indicate whether law enforcement contacted Premo again until 2010, when a different detective sent a letter to Premo’s home asking to speak to him. The letter reportedly included a link to a recent press release about the cold case.

The detective did not receive a response, the police report reads. So he called the phone number listed in Premo’s letter to Brinkman. Someone who picked up reportedly told the detective that Premo was not home, but she would leave a message for him to call back. Premo never called back, police wrote.

Ten years later in 2020, another Marysville detective sent fingernail clippings from Brinkman’s body to Parabon Nanolabs in Virginia, in an effort to find DNA under the nails. The private lab uploaded a genetic profile to the ancestry website GEDMatch, and a genealogist built a family tree for the suspect. That research pointed detectives to Premo as a suspect.

Detectives investigated “several” prior people of interest in the investigation, police wrote, but none of the DNA samples collected matched the genetic profile from the fingernails.

On Nov. 16, 2022, detectives reportedly tried to call Premo on the phone but could not reach him. A phone call to the suspect’s mother was immediately disconnected, police wrote.

A few days later, detectives tracked Premo down at his workplace in Redmond.

When police detained him, he reportedly denied meeting Brinkman at first.

Then he said, “We may have crossed lines in the chat lines. But I, like that particular face? I’ve never met that …”

Premo also reportedly told law enforcement he had never been to the city of Marysville.

Investigators served a search warrant to collect Premo’s DNA and sent it to a state forensics lab.

Washington State Patrol lab reports indicated there was “very strong support” that the suspect’s DNA was a contributor to evidence collected from the victim’s body, as well as the envelope mailed from the suspect’s address.

Premo was booked into the Snohomish County Jail around 3 p.m. Nov. 28.

At a court hearing Nov. 29, Everett District Court Judge Anthony Howard found probable cause to hold Premo on the murder charge, setting bail at $250,000.

Ellen Dennis: 425-339-3486; ellen.dennis@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @reporterellen.

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