With the advent of widespread genetic testing done at home, an increasing number of people are testing their DNA to learn more about themselves. However, there’s another group who are also learning from those DNA tests: the police. Police are using DNA testing resources to solve cold cases and old murders. The easy access means that the police could achieve a massive clear-out of cold cases.
Here are eight cold cases solved by DNA:
1. The Murder of Sara Lynn Wineski (2005)
Sara Lynn Wineski was raped and murdered and found the next day in Florida, 2005. DNA was collected at the crime scene but it was never linked to any suspects until 2013. New tests matched up a suspect, Raymond Samuels, who had been in prison since 2006 serving a 29-year prison sentence for attempted murder and kidnapping.
This cold case was solved with the help of DNA forensics. Since there were no witnesses, investigators would never have found the murderer without DNA technology.
2. The Murder of Krystal Beslanowitch (1995)
In 1995, Krystal Beslanowitch was murdered at age 17 and her naked body was found on the banks of a river in Utah. The trail went cold until 2006 when the case was re-opened. In 2013 new forensic technology was used to pull DNA from the granite rock that had crushed Krystal’s skull.
The cold case was solved when the DNA matched to Joseph Michael Simpson, now 46. He was arrested in Florida last year.
3. The Murder of Patricia Beard (1981)
Patricia Beard’s murder became the 100th murder or rape to be solved by the Denver Cold Case Team in July 2013. Beard, who was 32 at the time of her murder, was mentally disabled. After friends and family hadn’t heard from her for a few days, she was found dead on her bed, partially clothed.
DNA evidence was entered into a database in 2011, but not until 2013 was a match found. Charges were brought against Hector Bencomo-Hinojos, 53.
4. The Murder of Anna Palmer (1998)
In 1998, 10-year-old Anna Palmer was attacked and murdered outside of her front door in Salt Lake City, Utah. At the time of the crime the police had very little evidence, no witnesses, and no suspects. In 2009, analysts came to assist and they examined the girl’s fingernails for DNA samples.
The found DNA not belonging to Anna and they got a hit in the DNA database for Matthew Brock, who lived only a block away at the time of the murder. He was already in prison for a sex-related crime against a child. In 2011 he pled guilty for the aggravated murder of Anna Palmer and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
5. The Murder of Suzanne Bombardier (1980)
Fourteen-year-old Suzanne Bombardier was kidnapped in 1980. Her body was found in a river five days later. The case went cold. In 2015, the cold case was reopened and new DNA evidence was submitted.
A suspect’s DNA was matched in 2017 and 63-year-old Mitchell Lynn Bacom, a friend of the family, was arrested for the murder. He has not yet been to trial.
6. The Murder of Lynda Shaw (1990)
Lynda Shaw was kidnapped from the side of the highway in Ontario, Canada in 1990. Her burned body was found a week later. It wasn’t until 15 years later that a biologist confirmed that DNA from a man’s hair sample matched DNA from the scene.
Alan Craig MacDonald, had committed suicide in 1994. MacDonald had previously spent time in Canadian prison for the murder of a police officer and a cabbie in Nova Scotia.
7. The Murder of Teresa Broudreaux
In 1980, Teresa Broudreaux, 20 years old, vanished after leaving her sister’s house in California. Her body was found on a beach, but in 1980 there was no thoughts of DNA. In 2013, police ran DNA from the scene through their database and got a match.
In 2017, they arrested 65-year-old Robert Yniguez. He has not yet been to trial and faces the death penalty.
8. The Murder of Nicky Verstappen (1998)
Nicky Verstappen was a little boy on summer camp at a nature reserve in the southern Netherlands who disappeared from his tent in 1998. His body was found the next day, hidden away in a forest approximately a mile away. DNA evidence on the clothes was male but there were no matches in the national or international databases, nor did any of the samples taken from men during the investigation match what was found on the body.
In 2012, police were permitted to do familial DNA profiling, which means taking DNA samples from people who could be relatives of a suspect, based on both social and geographic profiles. This aided the cold case investigation, which eventually identified and arrested a suspect: Jos Brech, 20 years after the murder.