Tina McMenamin, an 18-year-old freshman at UNL, was stabbed and sexually assaulted in her apartment on July 25, 1995.
Gregory Gabel, a mentally ill Lincoln man, was arrested in the homicide and remained the prime suspect, an investigator says, even after critical 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 arrived at work at Godfather’s Pizza at 5:30 p.m. that night in 1995. 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 clenched in McMenamin’s hand led police to Gabel. It matched his DNA, a 1 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 a block away from a Sonic Drive-In. He was there every Tuesday night, cleaning in exchange for food. And Gabel had previous convictions for third-degree sexual assault and public indecency. The police arrested him a year after the crime.
But two years later, when a different DNA test proved the hair was not Gabel’s, he was released. That hair, however, did not necessarily belong to the killer, Doetker said. The investigator also has suspicions about the validity of the second DNA test, performed at a lab in Pennsylvania.
“There were questions that arose: Was it the right hair? The same hair?” he said.
Murder charges were dropped against Gabel in hopes that additional evidence would be found to re-arrest him, Doetker said. If the case goes to trial and Gabel is found innocent, Doetker added, he cannot be retried if new evidence comes to light.
Mary Hepburn-O’Shea, who has worked in mental health at Lincoln for decades and has known Gabel for many years, said in 2005 the man had lost two years in prison for something he didn’t. had not done.
Hepburn-O’Shea operates downtown OUR Homes, the city’s largest provider for people with developmental disabilities that also houses people with mental illnesses. 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 personal beliefs and assumptions. Peschong said he personally believed there was a suspect in the crime, but declined to name anyone.