Cold cases solved using DNA testing

DNA Genealogy Tests Made 2018 “The Year Of The Cold Cases”

There are different types of DNA tests, and they help the customers to learn about their ancestry as well as family lineages. Many people have distant relatives, but they do not know that they exist. As such, DNA helps many individuals to track down their relatives and create family trees.

The DNA companies have large databases, and their results are accurate in most cases. In the latest development, leading consumer DNA tests are helping the law enforcement agents to find closure to cold cases. For instance, in 2018, the detectives were able to locate suspects in about 28 cold cases across the whole country.

The method involves uploading the suspect’s DNA found at the crime scene to GEDmatch.com. The website is a public genealogy site, and it consists of DNA data for various people. When the investigators upload, the DNA, they obtain matches and let the genealogist create family trees.

The process is complicated in that it involves some research that can ultimately lead to the arrest of the suspect. However, the new partnership between law enforcement and genetic genealogy helped solve the most significant criminal cold cases in the US.

According to Parabon genealogical unit’s head CeCe Moore, the DNA method is not only for cold cases. It can apply to different situations as long as there is crime scene DNA that can help the investigators to track the victims. The method can improve the detectives to track burglars if they find DNA samples that can be of help.

Significant Murder Highlights

The police in Sacrament arrested Joseph James DeAngelo, 72, in April 2018. Joseph is a suspect the Golden State killer case, and the DNA helped to obtain matches with his third cousins. Luckily, the genealogists got the right links from GEDmatch which led to the arrest of the suspect.

Joseph is a former police officer facing accusations of committing more than 13 murders and 50 rapes between 1974 and 1986. During that period, the use of DNA testing was not widespread, so it was difficult to trace the murder suspects using it.

The Parabon NanoLabs in Virginia also used GEDmatch a month later to arrest William Earl Talbott, 55. Earl was a suspect in the 1987 murder case of a young Canadian couple in Snohomish County in the state of Washington. The suspect faced first-class murder after using the GEDmatch website to track him.


credit: CBC News

In 2018 alone, Parabon used GEDmatch and crime scene DNA to identify other suspects in 25 cold cases. The law enforcement agents pay for the research to determine the suspects using DNA method. However, some of the names of the suspects are still awaiting public release according to Parabon.

Police in Lowa Cedar Rapids arrested Jerry Lynn Burns 64 in connection with the murder of Michelle Martinko then 18 years in 1979. The 39-year-old murder crime involved death by stabbing where Michelle was found dead in the parking area around the mall.

Moore also helped the police in Fort Wayne to unearth the murder and rape of Tinsley, then eight years in 1988. She was abducted then raped and murdered in cold blood by the suspect. GEDmatch works by creating a family tree with links to possible suspects.


credit: ABC News

The suspect got a prison sentence of 80 years after his brother confessed. He later pleaded guilty to the crime following the lead from the crime scene DNA. The DNA testing method to resolve cold cases is fantastic since it helps bring closure to some cases long forgotten.

The method also involves the elimination of other people not likely to be significant suspects from the same family tree. For instance, the investigators can eliminate women from the list when they are dealing with cases involving rape. The research process is long and complicated, so it requires the investigators to be patient.

DNA Testing And Ethical Issues

The strategy of using DNA testing to solve mysteries of cold cases is commendable, but it also involves specific ethical issues. DNA companies are obliged to maintain confidentiality with data belonging to different individuals. The new partnership allows law enforcement agents to access data from companies.

However, they need consent from the relatives of the murder suspect to provide a matching DNA link. If the relative refuses to comply, they cannot force him since it is unethical. Lack of supporting samples my impact on the expected outcome. A tactical approach is required to compel the relatives to provide more details about the suspect.

It is crucial that the detectives involved in the investigation of cold cases act professionally to avoid violating other people’s rights. The other challenge posed by the method is that there may be insufficient links between the suspect’s DNA and available data.

The DNA companies have large databases, but these have somehow similar trends. The data has a bias toward the white race, and other races have no equal representation. Therefore, the method can pose some challenges if the suspect belongs to the underrepresented race. However, it is rare not to be able to find a DNA link entirely from the vast databases available.

Lack Of DNA Sample ON the Crime Scene

The other challenge with the DNA testing methods for investigating a cold case arises when the suspect leaves no traceable DNA. In the case of rape, the investigators can obtain the suspect’s semen from the victim. It is easy to trace the murderer when the sperm is readily available.

DNA testing using blood

However, certain cold cases may not involve any trace of the suspect’s DNA. DNA testing mainly involves saliva, semen or blood samples but if these are not found on the victim, the method may be challenging. Strangling the victim, for example, can leave no trace of the suspect’s DNA.

The method is popular in cases involving rape and murder where DNA sample is readily available. Even when the DNA is available, the investigators also need to obtain a new sample from the suspect’s relatives to confirm the match.

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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