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Open-source ancestry websites help to solve cold case felonies

| Jul 25, 2018 | Felonies |

The body of a 12-year-old girl was found in a fire pit in 1986, and police had no suspects. Only in 2006, sometime after law enforcement in Michigan and across the country started using DNA to solve felonies, police had a test done on DNA found at the murder scene, but there was no match in existing databases at the time. With advancing technology, open-source ancestry sites became available for people who wanted to learn more about their roots.

With the help of a genetic genealogist, that DNA sample was uploaded onto such a site, and compared to all those already in the system. A match was found with someone who could be a first cousin of the suspected killer. Further research and investigation revealed the ancestry of the suspect, right back to his paternal great-great-grandparents.

Following up on that information, investigators reportedly recovered a napkin used by a suspect at a restaurant. When DNA was tested, it was a perfect match to the DNA used for the 2006 test, The alleged murderer — now 68 years old — was arrested in June. He pleaded not guilty to murder, and he was held on a bond of $5 million.

Anyone in Michigan who finds him or herself accused of felonies based on DNA evidence will need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney with detailed knowledge of the science of DNA. There are a number of legal issues surrounding the investigative method used in this case, including questions regarding a potential violation of the defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures. It remains to be seen how those issues will be decided by the courts.