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murder case solved using DNA information

Ancestry DNA Used to Solve 50-year-old Harvard Student’s Murder

DNA testing plays a crucial role in helping people trace their family lineages. Apart from assisting people to discover their ancestry and create a link with their relatives, a DNA test can also help solve a crime. However, this can only be possible through the use of various datasets obtained from previous DNA results.

While DNA can be useful in solving criminal issues, specific implications can be involved. The other point is that there are different types of DNA tests available and various companies offer them. In solving a crime using DNA tests, privacy policies ought to get considered.

There Are Different Types of DNA Tests Available

There are mainly three types of DNA testing, and they are suitable for their intended purposes since they always give accurate results. These tests rely on massive DNA databases obtained from millions of sets. The tests also use similar testing methods including a sample of saliva that’s examined in the lab.


If you want to trace the origins of your ancestry and create a family tree with other little-known relatives, the 23AndMe test is right for you. It covers a comprehensive data set about ethnicity and can help you build a family tree that links you with other relatives.

Family Tree DNA

The service offers comprehensive family matching tools. The test also helps you to trace the roots of your family about five generations back. It is also ideal for health purposes like genealogy. Family tree DNA is also useful for solving other health-related issues. Certain conditions are hereditary, and this test can help solve the puzzle.

Ancestry DNA

Ancestry DNA covers more than 26 regions and ethnicities, and this can help you break down the DNA of your family. However, Ancestry DNA, unlike 23AndMe, does not offer paternal and maternal lineage tracing services. Regarding tracing your ancestry, the ancestry DNA is probably the best service you can order.

How New DNA Technology Can Solve Crime

Harvard university building

The new DNA and ancestry technology helped to solve a rape and murder case committed about 50 years ago at Harvard University area. According to the authorities in Massachusetts, the investigators used DNA evidence on Ancestry.com. They used the information to connect to a relative of a serial rapist who murdered Jane Britton, a Harvard University student in 1969.

Michael Sumpter died in 2001 of cancer and the FBI Combined DNA Index System connected him to the Harvard student murder of Britton. Sumpter was a serial rapist, and he died after completing another prison sentence for rape committed in 1975.

In 1969, Michael Sumpter raped and murdered Britton in her apartment after a night out with her friends. The body was only discovered the following morning when Britton missed her examination. Sumpter and Britton lived in the same area which complicated the case. However, there was no connection between these two people.

The medical examinations at the time indicated that the then 23-year-old graduate was raped and murdered in her Cambridge apartment.  The rapist snuck into the victim’s home when she returned from her night out. Sumpter has links to four other rape cases since his death and two of them resulted in death.

The other problem in solving the mystery of Britton’s death was that investigators had partial DNA data to use. Up until 27 years ago, the use of DNA was not widespread in Massachusetts. When Sumpter died, the DNA index confirmed through a biological brother that he indeed was the murderer.

When Britton was raped and murdered, semen was used as evidence to trace the perpetrator. The identity of the rapist only came to light after a DNA link from a genealogical website. Fortunately, the Sumpter’s brother offered a DNA sample for a conclusive match and using the DNA the Harvard murder was solved.

Source: WCVB Channel 5 Boston

Finding Matches From DNA Databases

Different companies offer DNA testing services, and they store all data from tests in their database. When you are tracing your ancestry lineage, you need to create a link from matching components available in the data obtained from the dataset.

The DNA testing is significantly gaining recognition by many people who want to establish their family lineages. With the high volume of DNA results available in different databases, it is possible to create links that can show some form of connection between different people.

In the case of rape, semen obtained from the victim can help in tracing the perpetrator through the use of various DNA data available. It is equally impossible for any living human being to fail to find a match from the vast databases of DNA companies. The new DNA testing technology enables people to trace their lineage to their original roots.

However, the primary challenge in solving a crime using DNA tests pertains to the aspect of ethics. Companies that offer DNA testing services have various privacy policies that are meant to safeguard client data. The organizations agree that they will not share individual data with other third parties. The issue of ethics can pose a challenge to this method of tracking perpetrators of serious crimes.

For instance, in the case of Sumpter above, DNA can go a long way in solving different cases involving heinous crimes.  While the motive is useful in fighting crime, the method can only apply if a DNA sample of the perpetrator is available. The technique works well in case of rape where rapists in most cases rarely use any form of protection.

The use of DNA testing may not apply to other heinous crimes like cold-blooded murder using a weapon. When there is no trace of blood or semen of the offender, then it becomes difficult to use DNA to solve the mystery.

The other challenge of using the DNA testing method is that the investigators need to get consent from a close a relative to provide a sample. A link obtained from previous DNA results needs confirmation from an example of a close relative. It may be challenging to convince third parties to provide samples required to solve mysteries.

About the Author Charles McKnight

I'm just another amateur genealogist investigating my American-Scots-Irish lineage. I built MyFamilyDNATest.com after buying all of the leading DNA tests to discover everything I could about my family history. Hopefully, this site will save you time and demystify the emerging science of DNA-based genealogy, for your family project.

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