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Forensic genealogy identified one of the most infamous of unidentified cold cases in American history—and caught California’s most notorious serial killer after decades on the lam. And that was just last month. Thousands of cold cases are potentially now in play, and investigators from coast to coast are curious about how the technique of searching public DNA databases could break open their toughest dead-end inquiries. 

Now Parabon, a company known for its composite facial images drawn from DNA profiles, is offering a new forensic genealogy service to those detectives with those nagging unfinished investigations.

Already the company has screened samples from 100 agencies around the country, according to Steven Armentrout, the Parabon CEO.

Approximately half the cases analyzed so far are solvable, Armentrout says. About 20 percent could be directly solvable with the genealogy methods, and another 30 percent would be likely solvable with law enforcement partnership and detection, he explained.

“In the past week alone, while working two unrelated homicide investigations, each unsolved for over 30 years, we were able to provide investigators with the likely name of the perpetrator,” said Armentrout, in this morning’s announcement.

“In the coming months, we anticipate a large number of arrests in which Snapshot Genetic Genealogy analysis was helpful, even critical to the investigation,” added Ellen McRae Greytak, head of Parabon’s Snapshot division, which includes the phenotyping (facial composite) tool. “Stay tuned for those announcements.”

The Parabon genealogy service will comb public databases such as GEDmatch, according to Armentrout.

GEDmatch, with hundreds of public DNA profiles available for searching, is independent of commercial services such as Ancestry, 23andMe and MyHeritage. It has proven crucial in the aforementioned breakthroughs of last month.

The Buckskin Girl, a young woman who was found dead in a roadside ditch in 1982, was identified over a matter of mere hours of GEDmatch and ancestry searching by Colleen Fitzpatrick and Margaret Press, of the DNA Doe Project.

The sensational capture of the alleged Golden State Killer, also known as the East Area Rapist and Original Nightstalker, was also produced by a GEDmatch search. Joseph James DeAngelo, now 72, has been charged in a series of murders and dozens of rapes and burglaries, after his unknown DNA profile at the crime scene was connected to distant relatives, and then narrowed through an extensive search of family trees branching back multiple generations

The head of Parabon’s new genealogy service is CeCe Moore, a genetic genealogist who has become generally well known through TV appearances on Finding Your Roots on PBS, as well as Genealogy Roadshow and multiple high-profile news programs.

The total tab for a Snapshot Genetic Genealogy analysis is $3,750, according to Armentrout. That begins with a flat $1,500 for the lab work—which determines whether the case is viable, and how promising it could be. If not promising, Parabon would monitor for future leads at no additional cost, he said.

But if it is promising, the full investigation and custom report would run the additional $2,250, Armentrout added.

“The analysis is labor-intensive and performed by expert genetic genealogists,” the CEO added. 

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