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DNA helps police solve 45-year-old cold case murder

New forensic technology brought a measure of closure to the family of an Alameda man killed in an attempted burglary 45 years ago, police and the man’s son said.

Based on a DNA exam conducted by the Serological Research Institute, a private forensics lab, and other evidence, police said Tuesday that Richard Curley Bernard is the person who killed 43-year-old Richard Bischel Sr. on Lincoln Avenue on March 16, 1977.

Richard Bischel Jr. said about police solving the case:

“I always hoped.” 

Bischel Jr. was there when his father was stabbed 10 times and was found by police lying on a sidewalk. His father died later at a hospital, according to police.

Bischel Jr. said of his father, who grew up in Wisconsin and served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War before settling in the Bay Area.

“He was a good man.” 

Bernard was not known by the Bischel family, Bischel Jr. said.

Bernard was a suspect in 1977, but limitations in DNA technology prevented prosecutors from charging him, retired Alameda Police Officer Lorenzo Graham said.

Graham and two other retired officers along with two police sergeants cracked the case.

Alameda Police Chief Nishant Joshi said more than 260,000 homicides in the nation are unsolved.

Police reopened Bischel’s case in 2021. Bernard had a criminal history, having been convicted for a series of burglaries in Alameda and two rapes, Graham said. Between 1973 and 1977, Bernard committed more than 100 burglaries, Graham said.

Bernard was released on parole in 1983 and died in 1989 after a person shot him in Texas.

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