Tag Archives: DNA

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 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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Arrests made in one of the Lodi, CA stabbing murders, but nothing new in the earlier case.

On Friday,January 13, 2017, the Lodi Sentinel reported that Lodi Police arrested Kenneth Vanderford, 51, and Kevin Etherton, 25, on suspicion of murder, burglary and arson with great bodily harm in the stabbing death of Alan Karl Gregor Jr. on September 25, 2016.  This is the murder that was discovered when the Lodi Fire Department was called to extinguish a fire at Gregor’s home on Vine Street.

This means that the February 2016 stabbing of Dorothy Wiederrich remains unsolved.  A television story on KOVR in Sacramento, CA implied that there may have been unidentified DNA found at the Wiederrich crime scene.  Given that there was also unidentified male DNA found on the body of Leila Fowler I offered that DNA profile to the Lodi PD.  Sadly, I received a polite reply telling me there was no unidentified DNA found at the Wiederrich scene.

This makes me wonder if I asked the wrong question.  It is believed that the unidentified DNA found on Leila Fowler’s body is not in the national fingerprint and DNA database known as CODIS, because the source was not convicted of a qualifying felony.

Our concern is that the DNA found on Leila will not be compared to newer entries to CODIS unless a member of the Isiah Fowler defense team remains vigilant and keeps shaking the tree.  I did not ask the Lodi PD if they compared any DNA found at the Wiederrich crime scene to that found on Leila’s body, nor did they say whether or not they had done so of their own volition.

In the meantime, if anyone knows any members of Dorothy Wiederrich’s family, please have them contact me at info@johnkennedyinvestigations.com or (916) 487-1670.

 

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Fowler Trial Gets Another New Trial Date

Defense testing of DNA and blood samples lead the prosecution in the Leila Fowler murder case to further test samples in its possession.  Those tests lead to results that were provided to the defense shortly before Christmas.  The results are important enough to potentially impact the outcome of the case.  Enough so that not only has the trial been reset for May 18, 2015 to allow for complete testing, another hearing is scheduled for Friday February 20th to allow the defense to request Isaiah Fowler’s release pending trial.

The court’s rational for keeping Isaiah institutionalized for nearly two (2) years is that the evidence available at the time of his arrest failed to indicate the presence of anyone else in the house at the time of the murder.  However, physical evidence analyzed in the interim does not fully support that hypothesis.  As a result, the court is being asked to to rethink its position regarding Isaiah’s incarceration.

The news of these developments lead to a rash of comments on various social media platforms and the voices of the misinformed were loudest.  Also loudly heard from was at least one voice who refused to talk with defense investigators during the summer of 2013 and could be perceived as protecting a potential suspect.

Everyone has a right to an opinion and so too a right to express those opinions.  Having the right does not mean that you must exercise it, particularly when those opinions are based on ignorance of the facts.

http://fox40.com/2015/02/04/new-evidence-in-leila-fowler-murder-case/

http://www.news10.net/story/news/2015/02/03/dna-evidence-could-clear-leila-fowler-brother/22828999/

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