DNA technology helped identify two cold case suspects in 2020

Virginia

RESTON, Va. (WDVM) — Nearly 30 years ago, 24800 Old Hundred Road was home to Sugarloaf Mountain Market, a convenience store in Montgomery County, Md. In 1992, a customer walked into the store and found a 57-year-old man suffering from stab wounds. He later died and the case went cold.

That is, until 2020 when Parabon NanoLabs stepped in. Using a DNA sample left at the crime scene, its analysis team drew up this sketch, leading to an arrest.

“We do both DNA phenotyping, which is predicting the appearance; so we predict someone’s eye color, hair color, face shape, ancestry,” said Dr. Ellen Greytak, Parabon’s Director of Bioinformatics and its Snapshot division team lead. “We also have kinship testing and genetic genealogy. Genetic genealogy is about building family trees and trying to figure out who that person could’ve been based on who their relatives are.”

In 2020, the Reston-based company generated a total of 50 leads, nationwide. Two were from our area: in Montgomery County and in Arlington. In January of 1991, a woman was walking home from the East Falls Church Metro station when she was attacked. Last year, the serial rapist was positively identified and arrested on four separate charges.

Greytak says it’s important to remember that Parabon’s work is in lead generation, not crime-solving. “Even if that lead is used to get DNA from so-and-so, it’s still just a lead and the detectives are the ones that are closing those cases, finding that person, getting proper cause to get their DNA and match it back to that crime scene sample, so we’re just helping them get there.”

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