DNA Under Slain Woman’s Fingernails Solved Brutal Murder 23 Years Later, Police Allege

DNA collected from beneath the fingernails of a woman violently killed in her Maryland home in 2001 led cold-case investigators to a suspect — her daughter’s ex-boyfriend — according to a newly released arrest warrant obtained by HuffPost.

Eugene Teodor Gligor, 44, was arrested on June 18 in Washington, D.C., and charged with first-degree murder in the 2001 killing of Leslie Preer, 49. Montgomery County Police Department detectives said in the court documents that they had collected Gligor’s DNA on June 24 from a water bottle they saw him use and discard at Dulles International Airport on June 9. Authorities said his DNA was a match to crime scene evidence that could only belong to Preer’s killer.

Blood collected from beneath Leslie Preer's fingernails after her 2001 killing matched the DNA of her daughter's ex-boyfriend, authorities alleged.
Blood collected from beneath Leslie Preer's fingernails after her 2001 killing matched the DNA of her daughter's ex-boyfriend, authorities alleged. MONTGOMERY COUNTY POLICE DEPARTMENT

Preer, 49, was attacked and brutally beaten in the foyer of her Chevy Chase home on the morning of May 2, 2001, investigators said. A medical examiner listed her cause of death as multiple blunt force trauma and strangulation. The blood found under her fingernails and bruising on her arms indicated that she had fought her suspected attacker, whose blood was also found in the dining room and a hallway and on the kitchen door leading to the backyard, authorities said.

Preer’s injuries were consistent with manual strangulation and her head “being battered onto the foyer floor,” authorities said. Some of the cuts to her head were V-shaped, authorities said, consistent with the sharp corners of the molding in the foyer and front door area.

Her body was found in the shower of her primary bedroom, where investigators believe her killer had carried her from the foyer so he could wash away the blood and prevent further bleeding in the house.

The killer tried to clean up the crime scene, investigators said, based on luminescence testing that revealed additional evidence of blood in the foyer, a trash can, and sinks in the kitchen and downstairs bathroom, and on door frames and the back door.

In spite of that evidence, the case went cold. Neighbors hadn’t seen anything unusual on the day Preer was killed. A 2001 analysis was only able to determine that the DNA belonged to an unknown male, and it excluded her husband and other men she knew, authorities said.

In 2022, police submitted the DNA collected from the bloody crime scene to the Texas lab Othram, which used advanced technology to develop a more complete DNA profile of the suspect, according to the arrest warrant. 

That profile was then sent to the consumer-based genealogy company FamilyTreeDNA, which offers its customers the option for authorized law enforcement agencies to view specific elements of their DNA in violent crime investigations. The results obtained in the FamilyTreeDNA database included the Gligor surname, which a detective in June connected to a tip in the original case file about Gligor and his previous relationship to Preer’s daughter, according to the arrest warrant.

Gligor has a criminal history, including weapons possession, driving under the influence and theft, authorities said, but none of his previous arrests would require investigators to submit his DNA to the national law enforcement DNA database known as CODIS.

Authorities have not identified a motive for the killing. Preer’s daughter, Lauren Preer, told The Washington Post that she dated Gligor for five years but hadn’t spoken to him for several years at the time of her mother’s death. Her mother always had been fond of Gligor, Lauren said, and he often joined the Preers on family outings and vacations.

Attorneys for Gligor did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment. A judge on Monday denied his request for bond. His next hearing is set for July 19.