DNA Detective Uses Genealogy To Help Solve Murders

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“Cold case” murders are getting solved faster than ever before, thanks to a DNA detective who uses genetic genealogy to help solve murders. The term “perfect murder” may one day become extinct, given that police can follow hidden clues much faster using genetic genealogy.

To use genealogy to help solve murders, investigators are entering genetic evidence from dated rape-murders that no one has solved, using publicly-accessible databases of DNA profiles. After checking the databases, they use genetic matches of distant family members to find the person they consider to be a suspect, as well as social media profiles. The first “cold case” that was solved broke out in April, and after that, investigators continued to use this method to solve older cases. Genetic genealogy helped them detect a suspect present in four more cases, of which two were detected this week.

On April 5, police arrested Joseph James DeAngelo, who they believe to be California’s notorious Golden State Killer. Then on May 18, police arrested William Talbot, a 30-year-old truck driver who was previously arrested in a double murder case in Washington in 1986.

On June 22, Gary Hartman was arrested for the murder of a 12-year old in Tacoma, Washington in 1986. On June 25, James Otto Earhart was named a suspect in the murder of real estate agent Virginia Freeman. However, he had already been executed for another crime in 1999. Also on June 25, police arrested Raymond “DJ Freez” Rowe, suspected of killing a Pennsylvania schoolteacher 25 years ago.

The DNA scientist who used genealogy to help solve murders in the last four cases is CeCe Moore, who was praised by MIT Technology Review for her outstanding work. According to the magazine, Moore noted that the genealogy databases she used reflect people who have ancestors from Northern Europe. She also explained that the murder she solved recently was convicted 20 years ago. She said that the suspect she identified was married, had children, has run a successful business, and was known by the community only for the good he has done. It’s surprising that although he committed a horrible crime, he “never offended again.”

“How is that possible? How could you do that?” Moore said. “I really wrestled. How could this person be capable of this? And the unfairness that the person they murdered is gone and this person has gone on to live a normal life. I have got to put these two things together.”

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