This past week, investigators announced they had cracked what is believed to be the oldest case solved with DNA and forensic genealogy — dating to 1956. https://t.co/sIvOczsSjl
— NPR (@NPR) June 13, 2021
In 1956, the bodies of 18-year-old Lloyd Duane Bogle and his girlfriend, 16-year-old Patricia Kalitzke, were found in the mountains near Great Falls, Montana. They had both been shot in the back of the head, and Kalitzke had been raped. Investigators did their best, but no perpetrator was found, and the case remained open for more than 60 years. Forensic science has come a long way since 1956, and such a murder today would rely heavily on DNA evidence. Kalitzke’s vaginal swab stayed in the evidence file, but virtually no one had a DNA profile at the time, and all these years later anyone evolved in the case was liable to be dead. Could they solve this crime using DNA?
With the help of partnering labs, forensic genealogists are able to use preserved samples to create a DNA profile of the culprit and then use that profile to search public databases for any potential matches. In most cases, those profiles can end up linking to distant relatives of the culprit — say, a second or third cousin. By searching public records (such as death certificates and newspaper clippings), forensic genealogists are then able to construct a family tree that can point them right to the suspect, even if that suspect has never provided their DNA to any public database.
In this case, “Our genealogists, what they’re going to do is independently build a family tree from this cousin’s profile,” Andrew Singer, an executive with Bode Technology, told NPR. He called it “a reverse family tree. … We’re essentially going backwards. We’re starting with a distant relative and trying to work back toward our unknown sample.”
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