Police arrest suspect in decades-old cold case murder of 10-year-old girl after obtaining DNA sample

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Rawf8/iStock(PAWTUCKET, R.I.) -- It was just two days after her tenth birthday when Christine Cole disappeared on a chilly evening in Pawtucket, R.I.

She left her home around sunset on Jan. 6, 1988, to buy some things for her mother and never made it back. Her lifeless body washed up on a beach some 15 miles away in the city of Warwick, 54 days later.

The case remained unsolved for more than three decades -- until now.

The Pawtucket Police Department on Thursday announced the arrest of a suspect in Christine's murder, 59-year-old Joao Monteiro of Central Falls, Rhode Island.

Pawtucket Police Det. Susan Cormier reopened the case in August 2018 and discovered evidence that had been submitted for forensics testing years earlier but wasn't included in the case file. The results, which were returned in 2010, revealed there was blood from a male on the inside of Christine's pants, according to the affidavit and arrest warrant.

Cormier requested further testing of the blood sample "in the hopes that newer advances in technology may reveal more," according to an affidavit.

The results produced a larger genetic profile, which was then checked against a DNA database maintained by the Rhode Island Department of Health.

The closest match was a 26-year-old man who had not yet been born at the time of Christine's disappearance. That's when investigators started looking into the man's father, Monteiro.

A background check showed that Monteiro had lived at several addresses in Christine's neighborhood, including in an apartment directly above the market where Christine was last seen in 1988, according to the affidavit.

Cormier obtained a search warrant to collect swab samples from Monteiro, and on Wednesday evening, she was notified that the DNA found on Christine's pants matched Monteiro's. He was arrested that same night.

Monteiro denied ever knowing Christine and said he wasn't responsible for her disappearance and death, according to the affidavit.

Monteiro was arraigned Thursday in district court in Providence. He has not yet entered any pleas and is being held without bail, court records show. ABC News has reached out to Monteiro’s attorney, but there was no immediate comment.

While announcing the arrest at a press conference Thursday, Cormier told reporters that Christine was likely in the wrong place at the wrong time because, so far, there doesn't appear to be any connection between her and Monteiro.

"I'm going to continue to work on this,” the detective said. “I hope that this is a message to the people that are responsible for these crimes that we are coming for you, and we're not giving up.”

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