FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va. (WDVM) — On Sept. 27, 2001, a woman was found dead near a drainage ditch on the 1500 block of Lincoln Circle. Police had ruled it a homicide, and then, the case went cold for 20 years.
Now, officers at the Fairfax County Police Department’s Major Crimes/Cyber Forensics Bureau are working to identify this Jane Doe, bring closure to her family, and finally close this case.
“It has us baffled. We don’t know who the victim is, nor do we know who the suspect is,” said Major Ed O’Carroll, bureau chief for the Major Crimes/Cyber & Forensics Bureau. “We’re anxious to get a lot of answers on that case.”
Jane Doe’s story is one of over 100 unsolved cold cases in the county, ranging from homicides to sexual assaults. Many have been pulled from the shelf over the years, only to be returned due to a lack of enough evidence to solve the crime.
Thanks to new technology, the FCPD has been able to begin cracking these cases one by one.
“DNA has been around for a while, but we’re breaking the barriers in getting details that were never imaginable before,” said O’Carroll.
These new details have led to finally solving crimes dating back decades. The FCPD partnered with DNASolves and Othram, which offer forensic-grade genome sequencing.
“Standard testing looks at 20 markers, and they compare those markers to a known database of perpetrators,” said Kristen Mittelman, Ph.D., chief development officer at Othram. “Our technology looks at hundreds of thousands of markers in a genome.”
Those markers are then entered into a genealogical database authorized for law enforcement use.
“Once we do figure out who that person was — whether it was victim or perpetrator – a test confirms the identity,” said Mittelman. “What’s great about that is, if it’s a perpetrator, it can often match other crimes committed by the same person.”
Othram is working on the Jane Doe case. Mittelman says they were able to fully crowdfund the case within two days.
This will allow the lab to start testing, with the hope of bringing detectives one step closer to closing her case — and finally, bring this long chapter to a close for her family.
“It’s a call they’ve been waiting almost a lifetime for. It’s the victim’s case, and they do deserve justice,” said O’Carroll. “No matter the time it takes, law enforcement is dedicated.”