Alie Berrelez murder: DNA from underwear links chief suspect Nicholas Stofer 18 years later

In 1993, the body of Alie Berrelez, age five, was found days after her disappearance. The case has haunted her family ever since. But today, more than eighteen years later, the Englewood Police Department has announced that new technology uncovered DNA in Alie's underwear that points toward Nicholas Stofer, the man suspected from the beginning.

The story is as sad as it was frustrating for all concerned. On May 18, 1993, a neighbor was reportedly watching Alie and her two brothers at the Golden Nugget apartment complex, where they'd recently moved with their mom. But she left them alone for a few minutes, and when she returned, Alie had vanished.

Her disappearance immediately conjured up memories of a case from just two months earlier involving Mikey Chandler, a three-year-old who'd been snatched from a Denver church. He was found less than a day later, disheveled and dirty but in one piece.

Searchers who began combing the area for Alie hoped for a similar resolution. But they were bitterly disappointed. Four days later, a bloodhound named Yogi led police to a duffel bag tossed in Deer Creek Canyon. Her body was inside.

In short order, a suspect was identified: Nicholas Stofer, a welder who lived in the same apartment complex but is said to have moved immediately after Alie went missing. According to Fox31, Yogi hit on Stofer's apartment before locating Alie's remains, and metal shavings found inside the duffel bag seemed to point to Stofer as well. But while he was publicly identified as a suspect, prosecutors ultimately decided they didn't have enough evidence to convict him of the crime. He died of a drug overdose in Phoenix at age 41.

Stofer's family insisted on his innocence as recently as yesterday. But at today's press event, damning information was unveiled. Englewood cops, who never gave up on the case, recently shipped evidence to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation in the hope that testing unavailable back in the early '90s would help unravel the mystery. Eventually, CBI personnel established that two genetic profiles from Alie's underwear matched Stofer.

The discovery finally provides closure for members of the Berrelez family, who've worked hard over the intervening years to help people in their situation. They founded an organization in Alie's name -- Alie Foundation -- that purchases bloodhounds for law-enforcement agencies.

Look below to see a CBS4 report broadcast prior to the news conference.

More from our Colorado Crimes archive: "Robert Walters trial: Best friend of victim Brittney Brashers testifies about night she died."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts