Monday, December 10, 2018

GEDmatch and forensics

GEDmatch is an open data personal genomics database and genealogy website based in Lake Worth, Florida. The website gained significant coverage in April 2018 after it was used by law enforcement to identify a suspect in the Golden State Killer case. Other law enforcement agencies started using GEDmatch, making it "the de facto DNA and genealogy database for all of law enforcement," according to The Atlantic's Sarah Zhang.

GEDmatch is based in Lake Worth, Florida, and was founded by Curtis Rogers, a retired businessman and John Olson. a transportation engineer, in 2010, with its main purpose being to help "amateur and professional researchers and genealogists".  GEDmatch users could upload their autosomal DNA profile from commercial DNA companies, with or without a GEDCOM file, to identify potential relatives who had also uploaded their profile…

California law enforcement investigating the Golden State Killer case uploaded the DNA profile of the suspected serial rapist/killer from an intact rape kit in Ventura County to GEDmatch. It identified 10 to 20 distant relatives of the Golden State Killer, and a team of five investigators working with genealogist Barbara Rae-Venter used this to construct a large family tree, which led them to identify retired police officer Joseph James DeAngelo as a suspect.  Investigators acquired samples of his DNA from items he discarded outside his home, one of which definitively matched that of the killer. The process took about four months, from when the first matches appeared on GEDmatch, to when DeAngelo was arrested in April 2018.

In September 2018, Roy Charles Waller was arrested as a suspect in a series of more than ten rapes between 1991–2006 in Northern California (the "Norcal Rapist") after DNA evidence from crime scenes were matched on GEDmatch to a relative.  Police then constructed a family tree and using the known characteristics of the rapist narrowed the suspects down to Waller. It took little more than a week to identify and arrest the suspect.

In cooperation with American law enforcement organizations, Parabon NanoLabs started uploading DNA evidence from crime scenes to GEDmatch in an attempt to identify perpetrators. Parabon said in November 2018 they said they were working on 200 cases and about half had produced matches. In 2018, the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of William Earl Talbott II, a former truck driver, as a suspect in the double murder of murder of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg.  Law enforcement investigators from the state of Washington investigating the murder had worked with Parabon NanoLabs to assemble a digital DNA profile of the suspected murderer and uploaded it to GEDmatch. The website had two relatives who were a close match to the DNA profile, and within three days the genealogist CeCe Moore was able to narrow down the profile to one suspect.

Law enforcement in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania working with Parabon NanoLabs used GEDmatch to identify a relative of the suspect in the 1992 sexual assault and murder of the schoolteacher Christy Mirack in her home in East Lampeter Township. The suspect, Raymond Charles Rowe (also known as “D.J. Freez”), was arrested on June 2018.

Law enforcement officers also used GEDmatch to narrow down suspects to two brothers in the 1986 rape and murder of 12 year old Michella Welch in Tacoma Washington. Gary C. Hartman, one of the brothers, was arrested and charged in June 2018.

GEDmatch was also used to identify the murderer of 40 year old Virginia Freeman in Brazos, Texas in 1981, as James Otto Earhart, who had been executed in 1991 for another murder.

In July 2018, John D. Miller confessed to the 1988 rape and murder of 8 year old April Tinsley near Fort Wayne, Indiana, after DNA samples were sent to GEDmatch and used to identify the suspect's relatives.

Spencer Monnet was identified using GEDmatch and arrested in July 2018 for the burglary and rape of a 79 year old woman in Utah, 14 weeks after the crime had been committed.

In August 2018, Darold Wayne Bowden was charged with being the Ramsey Street Rapist, a serial rapist who assaulted women in Fayetteville, North Carolina from 2006 to 2008, when DNA samples uploaded to GEDmatch were linked to him.

In August 2018, Michael Henslick was arrested as a suspect in the murder of 22-year-old Holly Cassano in 2009 in Champaign, Illinois, after DNA evidence left at the scene was linked to him through GEDmatch.

In September 2018, Marlon Michael Alexander was arrested as a suspect for a series of rapes in Montgomery County, Maryland between 2007-2011 after DNA samples from the rapes linked the perpetrator through GEDmatch to two relatives, one of whom, a female relative in Georgia, helped the local police identify Alexander.

Luke Fleming was arrested in September 2018 as a suspect in the 1999 rape and murder of Deborah Dalzell in Sarasota, Florida. Using autosomal DNA from his sperm and GEDmatch, Parabon constructed a family tree which pointed to a Florida resident Joseph Fleming, who was dead, but had two living sons, one of whom, Luke Fleming matched DNA from the crime scene.

In October 2018 Parabon used GEDmatch to identify Robert Eugene Brashers, a "violent serial rapist and murderer," as the 1990 killer of 28 year old Genevieve Zitricki in Greenville South Carolina, as the rapist of a 14 year old girl in 1997 in Memphis Tennessee and the murder of 12-year old Megan Sherer and her mother 38-year-old Sherri Sherer in Portageville, Missouri in 1998.  Brashers had committed suicide in 1999 after he was approached by police officers in Kennett, Missouri. His body was dug up in 2018 and confirmed a match to DNA from the crime scenes.

Parabon's technology led to the arrest of Michael Wayne Devaughn in the murder case of 65-year-old Betty Jones and in the sexual assault case of 81-year-old Kathryn Crigler in Starkville, Mississippi in 1990, who died two months later (called the 'Labor Day Murder'). Devaughn, already in jail for a drug offense, was arrested in October 2018.

Parabon helped the Faulkner County, Arkansas police identify Edward Keith Renegar in October 2018 as the primary suspect of the kidnap, rape and murder of 32 year old Pam Felkins in Greenbriar, Arkansas in 1990. Renegar was convicted of kidnapping a woman at knife-point in Arkansas 1994 but had died in 2002.

In November 2018 the Fulton County, Georgia police with the aid of Parabon's DNA Genetic Genealogy unit, tracked down and arrested 61 year old Jerry Lee in Alabama for the 1997 murder of 28 year old Lorrie Ann Smith. It was obvious that Smith had fought for her life. Police were able to use blood from the murder scene to extract the killers DNA. The police noted that "Despite a reward of more than $30,000 and DNA tests conducted on more than 100 individuals over the last 21 years, Police had been unable to positively identify the suspect until this week."

In November 2018 Maryland police, with the help of Parabon, arrested Fred Frampton Jr. for the armed robbery and shooting of 24 year old Michael Anthony Temple Jr. in Odenton, Maryland in 2010 leaving Temple a quadriplegic. Temple died in 2015 as a result of the 2010 attack. The robbery and murder was committed by two men but the second suspect, Jonathan Ludwig, had died in March 2018.

In November 2018, Benjamin Lee Holmes was arrested as a suspect in the murder of University of Florida student Christine Franke 17 years earlier in October 21, 2001 when she was shot in the head during a robbery. Parabon used a sample from the crime scene to put the DNA of the killer into GEDmatch and identified three distant cousins. They used genealogy techniques to narrow down to the most likely suspects. Law enforcement interviewed family members, collected DNA samples and compared them to the killer's DNA, Detective Micheal Fields said. " Through this testing, we were able to show the kinship relationship between the killer and different family members. We eliminated most of the family using genetic genealogy and eventually, we were able to narrow down the suspect list to two brothers, one of which was Benjamin Lee Holmes."

Parabon helped the Carlsbad, California police In November 2018 identify David Marbrito as the suspected killer of 39 year old Jodine Serrin in 2007 using DNA matches to some of his relatives. Marbrito was an itinerant who had family in the area and had died in 2011. Police discovered they already had an unprocessed DNA sample from Marbrito that matched Serrin's killer.

Parabon used GEDmatch to point towards John Arthur Getreu as a suspect in the murder by strangulation of 21-year-old Stanford University graduate Leslie Marie Perlov in 1973 in Santa Clara, California.  After Police found Getreu's DNA matched the DNA from the scene of Perlov's death they arrested him.

1 comment:

  1. A second Stanford University decades-old cold case has been linked to a man who was arrested six months ago through DNA.

    Leslie Perlov, a Stanford grad, and Janet Taylor, the daughter of a Stanford football coach, were killed 13 months apart in 1973 and 1974. They were each strangled and last seen leaving the Stanford campus. Both were 21.

    On Thursday, John Getreu, 74, was charged with Taylor’s murder -- six months after he was charged with Perlov’s…

    “For many years, both killings remained unsolved despite the sincere efforts of seasoned investigators,” the news release said.

    The break came when Santa Clara investigators submitted DNA from the Perlov crime scene to the genealogy website GEDMatch. Through further investigation, they determined the DNA belonged to Getreu of Hayward, Calif., the news release said.

    After his arrest in November, San Mateo investigators found DNA matching Getreu’s on clothing worn by Taylor, according to the news release.

    “The break that Santa Clara County came up with from their crime lab was critical to us being able to solve this case,” Assistant San Mateo County Sheriff Gregory Rothaus said, according to the San Jose Mercury-News.

    Rothaus was also quoted as saying, “Law enforcement is not giving up on victims and we have new DNA technology that is a great tool for us.”