Angel Dewey thought she'd never see the day when someone would be arrested and charged in the death of her mother, Carol Davidson.
But thanks to advances in forensic science and the determination of Tacoma police detective Gene Miller, Dewey got to see that day Friday.
Pierce County prosecutors formally charged Christopher Leon Smith with first-degree murder in the 1986 death of Davidson, who was found bound and strangled in her apartment in August of that year.
"It's been a long time coming," Dewey said outside court.
A not guilty plea was entered on Smith's behalf. Court Commissioner Meagan Foley ordered him jailed in lieu of $5 million bail at the behest of deputy prosecutor Phil Sorensen. Smith's also on a Department of Corrections hold as he's already serving a sentence of 50 years to life for a 2009 rape conviction.
Dewey said she was grateful to Tacoma police for continuing to pursue the case and hoped a conviction would bring closure for her family.
"Science and technology are amazing," Dewey said. "We're still kind of numb about it."
Tacoma police detective Gene Miller, who heads the department's cold-case unit, said DNA evidence collected at the crime scene 25 years ago ultimately linked Smith to Davidson's death even though it was virtually unusable back then.
Advances in technology allowed forensics scientists working today to analyze that evidence recently and match it to Smith, whose DNA profile was in a statewide database because of his previous felony rape conviction, Miller said.
"He was not a named person in this investigation," Miller said. "He came up purely because of the work the State Patrol crime lab did on the evidence we submitted."
Smith has denied killing Davidson and called anything linking his DNA to the crime "a conspiracy," court records show.