DNA cracks cold case: Cleveland man arrested for 1987 murder of Garfield Heights teen

DNA cracks cold case: Cleveland man arrested for 1987 murder of Garfield Heights teen
James Zastawnik, 67, of Cleveland, was arrested Wednesday and charged with the murder of Barbara Blatnik, who was found dead in Cuyahoga Falls in 1987. (Source: Cuyahoga Falls Police Department)

CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio (WOIO) - On Dec. 20, 1987 Cuyahoga Falls Police responded to O’Neil Road near Blossom Music Center and discovered the body of Barbara Blatnik.

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Blatnik, of Garfield Heights, had been stripped of her clothing and was strangled to death.

Detectives investigated several leads throughout this 30-year cold case, and on Wednesday, James Zastawnik, 67, of Cleveland, was arrested for the murder of Blatnik based on new evidence that was provided through advancements in DNA technology.

Cuyahoga Falls Police, Ohio BCI, Identifers International, and The Porchlight Project worked together to crack the case.

“...I want to express an immense amount of gratitude to everyone at The Porchlight Project for the funding that they provided to help get the needed DNA testing that was done to close this case. They have done an incredible service to the Blatnik family and our police department," Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters said in a prepared statement.

“It is great to see justice done for Barbara Blatnik. The detectives who worked on this over the years never gave up on finding the killer especially Detective Tlumac. This is also a great example of cooperation between law enforcement, the Porchlight Project, and BCI coming together to creatively look for a solution to resolving a brutal murder.” Cuyahoga Falls Police Chief Jack Davis said in a prepared statement.

Anyone with information pertaining to the case is urged to contact the Cuyahoga Falls Police Detective Bureau at 330-971-8318.

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