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A murder in San Jose shows how Fitbit can do more than track your steps.

Really nice article about a murder from a year ago in San Jose, CA.
 
The article by Lauren Smiley appears in Wired Magazine and tells the story of how data downloaded from a Fitbit worn by the victim, 67 year old Karen Navarra, led to the arrest of her 90 year old step father, Tony Aiello. Mr. Aiello died in county jail before the case came to trial.
 
The victim’s Fitbit, security camera footage from a neighbor’s house and blood on clothes found in Tony’s hamper led to his arrest. Tony’s wife believes he didn’t kill her daughter and the crime scene and Tony’s mental capacity seem to support her faith in him. Unidentified male DNA was found on a cigarette butt found at the scene as well. Now that Tony is dead, the case has been dismissed and the County has no incentive to search for the identity of the source of that DNA.
 
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Update on the Mulligan Child Molestation Case in Calaveras County, California

The first post regarding the roughly 25 count indictment for various allegations of sex with minors against George Mulligan of Valley Springs, CA was reported here in early October of 2018.

In what has become a monthly ritual, the trial setting conference for August was pushed back to 9/6/19.  Given the number of charges and the likelihood of a large number of victims, this is not surprising.  There is a great deal of material to go through in order for the defense to get a handle on this case.

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Is the window closing?

Just over a year ago, the world of investigations generally and criminal investigations more dramatically, was radically altered by the use of DNA testing combined with genealogical research to locate likely perpetrators of notorious crimes. The dam broke open with the arrest of Joseph DeAngelo, the alleged Golden State Killer.

Prior to this breakthrough, DNA samples from certain crimes were entered into the CODIS database. (Combined DNA Index System, maintained by FBI) One of the flaws of CODIS was that it’s data was limited to a relatively small portion of the population.

In the meantime, the growth of DNA testing for the purpose of genealogical searches was rapidly growing and producing a wealth of DNA data that was probably exclusiveof  CODIS contributors.  If a criminal avoided apprehension, his or her DNA might never go into the CODIS database with an identity attached to it.

What combining DNA testing with Genealogical research hopes to do  is take the DNA information found at a crime scene and compare it to the commercial data beyond realm of CODIS.  If close matches can be found, genealogy is used to find likely exact matches through relatives of the sample source.  Then law enforcement looks for and locates those likely matches and procures DNA samples for contemporary testing.  In the case of the Golden State Killer, law enforcement went into old evidence that had unidentified DNA in a quantity suitable for test, ran it through SNP tests, sent the data to the open source GEDMatch and eventually went into DeAngelo’s garbage to find what proved to be matching samples.

You need either a preliminary source for DNA testing, for example blood found on the victim at the scene or the wash/extract produced for the original testing.  The process of testing for DNA includes extracting  a purified sample in a water solution.  This is sometimes referred to as the “wash.”  Even if a previously untested source for testing doesn’t exist, the remaining wash may be usable for testing by newer methods.

Further hampering the possibility of an overlap between the CODIS data and commercial data is the fact that they use different testing methods.  What follows may be a gross oversimplification of the science, so I apologize to the likes of Blaine T. Bettinger for that error. Law Enforcement uses a STP method and the commercial world uses the SNP method.  To my knowledge, the test data for one cannot be converted to the other.  As a result, if the DNA sample that was in evidence was consumed in full and there is no remaining wash, you may be unable to take advantage of the the new options.

While this new approach has closed approximately 55 cases since 2018, including the recent case in which the first person convicted of committing a crime was freed using this technique the window for maximum use of this technique may be closing.  (The ISHI Report, What Does the Future Hold for Investigative Genealogy?, See the link below.)

The Golden State Killer case had a DNA sample or samples tested and created a false identity for the results. The results were then submitted to GEDMatch.  GEDMatch is an organization that is a sort of open platform for DNA results.  You can submit a swab for testing or you can submit your data from companies like 23andMe or Ancestry and  GEDMatch would lump everyone into one huge data base for doing genealogical research.  Suddenly everyone who joined GEDMatch had unknowingly given law enforcement their private data for evidence.

“On November 17, 2018, a 71 year-old woman was attacked while she was practicing the organ in a church meetinghouse. CeCe Moore, an investigative genealogist, was asked to assist with the case. Knowing that using the GEDMatch database to solve an assault case would violate their terms of service, she initially declined. With express permission from Curtis Rogers, founder of GEDMatch, investigators were allowed to use the database to identify the attacker.” (The ISHI Report, What Does the Future Hold for Investigative Genealogy?, See the link below.)

That same article goes on to explain why the window of opportunity on this type of investigation may have at least narrowed.  According to the ISHI article, the backlash to the the above referenced cases and others caused GEDMatch to require users to opt-in to having their DNA test results available for such investigations.  The result is that where GEDMatch once had 2,000,00 searchable profiles, it now has only 20,000.  That means the pool of searchable profiles has dried up significantly.

It will now be much more challenging to find matches that can help to solve cases.

The ISHI article I  cited was authored by Carol Bingham, Tara Luther and Promega and can be found at https://promega.foleon.com/theishireport/july-2019/what-does-the-future-hold-for-investigative-genealogy/.

 

 

 

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The Northern California Innocence Projects corrects a very flawed verdict from 1985 cold case through the use of DNA.

Science corrects another bad conviction in El Dorado County.
Conviction Reversed in 1985 Cold Case Homicide Based on Newly Discovered DNA
SANTA CLARA, Calif., April 22, 2019— A man wrongfully convicted in a 1985 cold case murder has had his
conviction reversed based on newly discovered DNA evidence. The April 15 decision by the California Superior Court of
El Dorado County opened the door for a new trial in a case that spotlights high risk interrogation methods and the value of scientifically sound evidence.
After hearing evidence in mid-2018, on April 15, 2019, the Honorable Judge Kenneth Melikian reversed the 2005 murder conviction of Ricky Davis who had been convicted of the murder of Jane Hylton. The victim, who had been staying in Davis’ home with her daughter, had been found dead in the home 17 years earlier, in 1985.
Davis was convicted based largely on what his lawyers believe was false testimony from Davis’ former girlfriend, which was ultimately directly contradicted by DNA science.
The Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) at Santa Clara University School of Law was appointed to the case in
2012 and brought the legal request that led to the reversal of his conviction. The law by which the court reversed Davis’ wrongful conviction was one that NCIP had fought for until its enactment in January 2017.
The reversal stems from DNA results—derived using testing methods not available at the time of Davis’ conviction—which revealed the DNA of an unknown male, and not Ricky Davis, on evidence intimately connected to Ms. Hylton’s murder.
Background
In 1985, Hylton was found murdered in Davis’ home where she was staying with her young daughter. She had injuries and a bite mark on her back indicating a serious struggle before she died.
Davis’ girlfriend, Constance Dahl, also resided in the home. Davis, Dahl, and Hylton’s daughter discovered Hylton’s body and all denied any involvement in or knowledge of what happened.
Hylton’s murder investigation went cold for 14 years until 1999, when law enforcement reopened the case and immediately focused on Davis as their suspect.
Their key witness became Davis’ then ex-girlfriend Connie Dahl.
Between 1999 and 2001, Dahl was subjected to multiple prolonged and suggestive interrogations. After first denying any involvement in the crime, Dahl ultimately claimed she was present when Davis killed Hylton, and that she had bitten Hylton while struggling to stop Davis.
At the time of trial, a forensic laboratory conducted DNA testing on the crime evidence, but concluded that they could not test for saliva on the nightgown Hylton was wearing during the attack and through which she had been bitten.
Davis maintained his innocence but was convicted of Hylton’s murder based largely on the testimony of Connie Dahl.
Davis was sentenced to 16 years to life in prison in 2005.
Over the course of several years, with the cooperation of the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Laboratory of Forensic Sciences DNA-tested evidence connected to Hylton’s murder using
techniques developed in the years after the conviction. This testing, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s
Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence Grant Program, showed that neither Davis, nor Dahl, were the source of DNA evidence found in the area where Hylton had been bitten, or from under the fingernails of her injured hands. The testing revealed instead that an unknown male was the source of all such DNA.
NCIP challenged the conviction and successfully argued that had the original jury heard the DNA results, it would have likely reached a different outcome. It was a key moment because until January of 2017, the California standard required that new evidence “point unerringly to innocence”— then the highest hurdle in the country and a nearly unattainable standard. In 2016, NCIP co-sponsored Senate Bill 1134 championed by former California State Senator Mark Leno, to put California’s standard in line with that of 43 other states. The Bill, which passed in January 2017, allowed defendants like Davis to instead prove that the new evidence would likely have been persuasive to a jury.
“This new law has led to the just result today. The DNA evidence shows that both Ricky and Connie were innocent, but we might not have gotten here without the evolution of California law” said NCIP attorney Melissa O’Connell. “An unknown male DNA profile does not bring justice to Ms. Hylton’s family in solving her tragic murder, but there is no justice in convicting the wrong man for this horrific crime.”
The district attorney’s office now must decide whether to re-try Davis for Hylton’s murder.
NCIP prioritizes legislative efforts that address the consequences and causes of wrongful conviction. Our priorities for this legislative session include providing automatic compensation to exonerees and expanding defense access to post-conviction discovery. Past efforts have allowed NCIP to successfully litigate open cases and pursue previously closed cases, leading to important criminal justice reform and the exoneration of innocent individuals.
About the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP)
NCIP is a non-profit clinical program of Santa Clara University School of Law whose mission is to promote a fair, effective, and compassionate criminal justice system and protect the rights of the innocent. Since its inception in 2001, NCIP has processed over ten thousand requests for inmate assistance, investigated hundreds of cases, pursued litigation or collaborative resolution in dozens, and obtained the freedom of 24 wrongfully convicted individuals. Learn more at http://www.ncip.org.

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Weiderrich/Gregor Murder Case Update

Weiderrich/Gregor Murder Case Update
 
The next hearing in trial of Kenneth Vanderford and Kevin Etherton for the stabbing murders in Lodi, CA of Dorothy Weiderrich and Alan Karl Gregor is scheduled for 1/14/19 at 1:30 PM.
 
A source has informed me that Vanderford was working or otherwise active in the San Andreas, CA area during 2013. If anyone knows anything about what Vanderford, who also went by the name of Bobby Eugene Presley, was doing at that time, please feel to contact me.

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The Use of DNA Just Gets More Interesting

Learning more about the use of DNA as a forensic tool.
 
Today I learned that DNA samples can be extracted from fingerprints/fingermarks. It makes perfect sense that “touch DNA” would be deposited at a crime scene through finger prints.
 
The results seem to vary depending on the surface where the print/mark was left and the duration of time the finger was pressed against the surface. Just the same, even if a fingerprint/fingermark is smudged, DNA might be extracted to help place a person at a crime scene.
 
I am waiting to hear back from a major DNA research firm to learn if DNA can be extracted from the material used to lift prints from a crime scene.

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Domestic Abuse Turns Fatal in Davis, CA

Just before 7:00 AM on October 20, 2018 Jaime Kinseth was fatally shot after forcing his way into the apartment of his former girlfriend Hayley Gilligan.  The apartment was located on F Street in Davis, CA.  Gilligan, who was getting ready to shower before her mother and sister arrived to join her for a trip to Disneyland answered a knock at the door of the apartment she moved into over the Labor Day weekend.

Gilligan thought the knock meant that her relatives had arrived early.  Gilligan opened the door and Kinseth forced his way into the apartment.  What happened then is not yet certain.

This firm has been retained by Mark Reichel, the attorney hired by the Gilligan family, to work on Haley’s defense.

Any friends or neighbors that might have anything to share about the relationship between Gilligan and Kinseth can contact me through this blog.

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