Real Name: Alesandra Berrelez
Location: Englewood, Colorado
Date: May 23, 1993
Details: On May 18, 1993, five-year-old Alie Berrelez was playing with her brother in front of her apartment complex in Englewood, Colorado when she vanished after her babysitter went inside. Police believed that she had been abducted, but had few clues. Four days later, a bloodhound named Yogi and his handler, Jerry Nichols, were brought in to trace her scent and help find her.
Yogi took Alie's scent from clothing she had recently worn and soon started moving. He first went up the stairs and zeroed in on a specific apartment; this was where Alie lived. This meant that he was on the right track. He then led Jerry out of the apartment complex and down the street, heading South.
Bloodhounds use their saliva to help better smell the scent trail. Their ears and mouth also help. A scent trail, whether animal or human, comes from thousands of dead skin cells that are constantly being shed. If the skin cells are not disrupted by weather changes, then they can remain for up to a month. Despite the many skin cells in the air, a bloodhound is able to focus in on one specific scent.
While they walked, Jerry noticed that Yogi picking up the scent more sporadically. This meant to him that Alie had most likely been taken into a car and driven along that route. Yogi led the search party South for several miles. At the entrance to a freeway, he headed straight up the westbound ramp. The search party drove West, to the next exit. He went past the exit and continued to pick up the scent down the freeway.
The search party did this several times at each exit. To save time, the police decided to skip the fourth exit and move on to the fifth. When they got to the fifth exit, Yogi lost the scent. He apparently realized that they had overshot the scent trail. They back-tracked one-half mile to the previous exit. He picked up the scent and led them off of the freeway. He headed in the direction of a wooded area, Deer Creek Canyon. After seven hours, Jerry realized that Yogi was overworking himself. He decided to stop the search.
The next morning, human volunteers continued the search in Deer Creek Canyon. Tragically, an hour later, they discovered Alie's body. She had been stuffed into a khaki duffel bag and tossed off a 20-foot embankment. Without Yogi, her body may have never been found.
Her family has set up a foundation for bloodhounds so that they can be available to search for missing persons.
Suspects: None known. Yogi tracked the killer’s scent back to an empty apartment at Alie’s apartment complex. Police believe that the killer either lived in the apartment complex or the killer had visited someone who lived in it.
Nicholas Stofer was questioned as a suspect, but he was eventually cleared.
Extra Notes: This case first aired as part of the remarkble tracking abilities of bloodhounds on November 10, 1995. It was also featured on Vanished with Beth Holloway.
Results: Solved. Investigators taking a new look at Alie's murder matched a DNA sample to Nicholas Stofer, ending a saga for her family. As advancements in technology emerged, evidence gathered in the case has been resubmitted for additional testing and comparison, police said. On February 8, 2011, several items of evidence were submitted to the CBI for new DNA testing. A CBI agent developed a complete DNA profile from an area of Alie’s underwear and from the waistband. That DNA profile matched that of Stofer. "We had to wait 18 years for forensic science to catch up to the evidence we had on hand," said Englewood police Chief John Collins, announcing the end to the Berrelez case on Tuesday. "It was unequivocally his DNA in her underwear and it had no business being there."
At the time of the abduction, Stofer lived in the apartment complex where Alie lived with her mother and two brothers. He had been there for three weeks prior to her abduction and abruptly moved to California just five days after it. He made the reservations for his flight on the morning of May 18, the day she disappeared. He was a focus of the investigation within days when her three-year-old brother told the police, "The old man" took her and then took them to Nick Stofer's apartment."
Detectives traveled to Redlands, California to take blood and hair samples from him. However, DNA testing did not exist at that time. Detectives learned during the investigation that as a teenager he frequently partied in Deer Creek Canyon. A friend who helped him move into the apartment said that he had in his possession a green military style canvas bag similar to the one she was found in. He denied ever having such a bag. He was a welder, and police said they found metal shavings in the duffel bag in which her body was found. He had also once expressed a fantasy about abducting a small girl, police said. Carpet fiber found on her blouse matched the carpet in his apartment and did not match any other in the apartment complex, police said.
Over the years, the investigation into her abduction and murder continued. He remained a person of interest and a suspect but police could not arrest him because there wasn't enough evidence. On Oct 7, 2001, he was found dead inside his Phoenix apartment of an apparent drug overdose. Police were called to his home on a welfare check after his family had not heard from him in some time. When his body was discovered, he had been dead for two days.
Since Stofer is now deceased, Alie's case is considered closed.
- The Alie Foundation
- Alie Berrelez on Unsolved.com
- 1993 killing of Englewood 5-year-old Alie Berrelez solved: It was neighbor long suspected and now dead
- After 5-year-old murdered, grandfather starts foundation to supply police dogs to help find missing children
- Alie Berrelez at Find a Grave