Rose Hnath: DNA breakthrough leads to arrest in 1989 fatal stabbing of Pennsylvania widow

Rose Hnath: DNA breakthrough leads to arrest in 1989 fatal stabbing of Pennsylvania widow
Rose Hnath, 78, was found dead in her ransacked home in January 1989 (Pennsylvania State Police)

LEHIGH COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA: Police have finally apprehended a suspect in the cold-case murder of Rose Hnath, a Pennsylvania widow who was repeatedly stabbed and bludgeoned to death during a home burglary 35 years ago.

Authorities arrested Michael Breisch, 65, in Ohio this week after new technology linked his DNA to evidence left at the 1989 crime scene, the Lehigh County District Attorney announced Thursday, May 16.

Insights into Rose Hnath's murder

Hnath’s relatives became concerned and went to her home when she did not show up to church on January 21, 1989. Her nephew entered the residence and found the 78-year-old widow “stabbed and beaten in the living room,” Detective Robert Devers told 69 News.

The home was ransacked and a knife believed to have been used in the murder was left behind. Hnath also had defensive wounds, indicating she had fought against her attacker.

For more than three decades, the case remained unsolved, though investigators continued their efforts to identify Hnath’s killer. New DNA technology, unavailable at the time of the murder, led to the recent breakthrough, Lehigh County District Attorney Gavin Holihan said at a Thursday press conference.

“We’re at the end of a long investigation that — although it went cold — it was never forgotten, and it was never put aside,” the Pennsylvania prosecutor stated, per New York Post.

Who is Michael Breisch?

Breisch, who was 30 at the time of the murder, lived in a community corrections facility in nearby Allentown. He is not believed to have known his alleged victim, Holihan said. The district attorney did not disclose details about Breisch’s criminal record or why he was residing in a corrections facility.

Breisch had recently moved to Wind Gap, Ohio, where law enforcement officers arrested him in collaboration with Pennsylvania agencies. He has since been extradited to Pennsylvania and is being held in Lehigh County Jail without bail, Holihan confirmed.

What are the charges against Michael Breisch?

Breisch is facing charges of criminal homicide, burglary, robbery inflicting serious bodily injury, and aggravated assault. Hnath’s surviving family members have been notified of his arrest and expressed both relief and gratitude, according to Holihan. “You don’t get a free pass on murder,” the DA emphasized. “The cases stay around and the detectives’ memory stays around and the case files stay around.”

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