18-year-old UNL freshman Tina McMenamin was stabbed and sexually assaulted in her apartment on July 25, 1995.
Mentally ill Lincoln man Gregory Gabel was arrested in the homicide and was always the prime suspect, an investigator said, even after crucial DNA evidence failed to link him to the crime scene . Gabel has a computer memory for numbers and facts and a history of tracking women in business and public events, retired investigator Rich Doetker said in 2005.
McMenamin was killed minutes before she went to work at Godfather’s Pizza at 5:30 p.m. that night in 1995. Her roommate Sarah Bognich found her friend in a pool of blood that night.
“The apartment was ransacked. I walked past the bedroom several times before noticing it on the floor. My life changed after that. I tried to go back (to college) and I could never finish . “
A single hair tight in McMenamin’s hand led the police to Gabel. It matched his DNA, one in 1,049 chance. Circumstantial evidence also linked Gabel to the building. And a man matching Gabel’s description was seen fleeing the crime scene, Amberwood Apartments, 4600 Briarpark Drive.
That night Gabel was one block from a Sonic Drive-In. He was there every Tuesday night, cleaning up in exchange for food. And Gabel had previously been convicted of third degree sexual assault and public indecency. Police arrested him a year after the crime.
But two years later, when another DNA test proved the hair was not Gabel’s, he was released. This hair, however, did not necessarily belong to the killer, Doetker said. The investigator also has suspicions about the validity of the second DNA test, carried out in a laboratory in Pennsylvania.
“Questions arose: was it the right hair? The same hair? ” he said.
Murder charges were dropped against Gabel in the hope that further evidence would be found to arrest him again, Doetker said. If the case goes to trial and Gabel is found innocent, Doetker added, he could not be retried if new evidence comes to light.
Mary Hepburn-O’Shea, who has worked in the mental health field in Lincoln for decades and has known Gabel for many years, said in 2005 the man lost two years in prison for something he didn’t had not done.
Hepburn-O’Shea operates the city center of OUR Homes, the city’s largest provider of developmental disabilities, which also houses people with mental illness. Gabel lives and works there. “He’s a weird kid,” she said. “He’s never a violent child.”
Then Deputy Police Chief Jim Peschong, speaking in 2005, added that you cannot judge a case on the basis of personal beliefs and assumptions. Peschong said he personally believed there was a suspect in the crime, but declined to name anyone.