DNA genealogy and forensic cold cases

1 minute read

This year there have been some amazing new leads in “cold cases” by using a new kind of DNA approach, using public genealogy websites to look for people who are similar to samples from crime scenes and thereby identifying suspects by finding their genetic relatives.

Today NBC News is running an article that reports on a new case solved with genealogy, and gives some broader perspective: “‘This is just the beginning’: Using DNA and genealogy to crack years-old cold cases”.

Then, this spring, that company, Parabon NanoLabs, called back, offering to perform a new type of DNA testing that went far beyond the traditional biometric match police labs use. Fort Wayne agreed, and six weeks later the company’s lead researcher reported that she’d narrowed the list of potential suspects to two brothers. On Sunday, detectives arrested one of the brothers, who confessed.
This seemingly rapid resolution to a long-stalled murder case is becoming something of a trend: It is the fifth cold case solved by Parabon and their researcher, CeCe Moore, since early May, meshing high-tech DNA analysis, traditional genealogical work and the soaring popularity of online ancestry databases. A sixth, involving an accused serial killer in California, was solved in a similar manner.

Some people think this is the next big step in restoring justice to victims, others think is it a major potential invasion of genetic privacy.

I haven’t written about these cases yet, but I have to say this forensic approach may be the most significant story in human genetics this year.