Genetic Genealogy

Today I watched an online webinar offered by Bode Technology called “Forensic Genealogy: Diving Deeper into Law Enforcement Investigations.” Presented by John Somerindyke, Retired-Fayetteville Police Department, the discussion was of forensic genealogy investigations from the perspective of law enforcement. This is part of Bode’s seminar series on “Justice Using Genealogy.” It was free. All I had to do was register. In the past I have been able to watch/listen to recorded webinars simply by contacting the company.

Bode Technology has served “the law enforcement and identification markets for over 25 years and is unique in that it provides both state-of-the-art human DNA analysis and innovative DNA collection products. The range of Bode Technology’s services include diverse offerings such as high-throughput DNA testing services, casework analysis, missing person identification, private and CODIS databanking of convicted offenders or arrestees, as well as paternity identification. Our patented DNA collection systems are in use worldwide for collections of DNA from convicted offenders and arrestees, from crime scenes, as well as from parents and children for genealogy and identification services. By leveraging the strength and experience of our research and development teams and casework analysts, Bode Technology offers worldwide DNA analysis services, consulting, training, and validation services on a customized basis.”

So a long way of saying that Bode works with law enforcement all the time. The presenter, Retired Lt. Somerindyke discussed how the Fayetteville Police Department solved the case of the “Ramsey Street Rapist,” involving at least 6 rapes over 22 months in 2007-2008 using genetic genealogy.; Lt. Somerindyke described how technology finally caught up with this rapist in 2018.

At a press conference some time after the Golden State arrest, Somerindyke explained how they were proceeding with the evidence in these cases and said they would do anything and everything to solve these violent crimes. The PD went forward with a press conference to get the information out to the public, because this is how you get that phone call–the one that might solve the case.

He was intrigued by the solving of the Golden State Killer case and his department used genetic genealogy services and Parabon Nano Labs to triangulate and find a person of interest. He explained that once the genealogist does the work, there is still a lot of work for law enforcement to do to help “fill out” the family tree to narrow on a suspect. Law enforcement takes the genetic genealogy road map and can fill in using vital records from county and state data bases. He called the information from the genealogist the equivalent of a crimestoppers tip that has to be further investigated and developed by law enforcement.

Asked about the cost, Somerindyke responded there is “no price tag for getting victims justice,” and that in the scheme of things, the cost was “not that much.” He said if the Fayetteville PD could scrounge up enough for seven genetic genealogy cases (they went on to use the procedure in other cases), anybody could.

He told law enforcement participants to do this sooner rather than later, before laws might be enacted to prohibit LE from using genetic genealogy databases due to privacy concerns. He explained that GED Match has tightened its privacy policies since the Golden State Killer arrest, but that it is still a workable system for finding offenders or exonerating the innocent at this point.

Cases that have used genetic genealogy are making their way through the court system but to date, no cases have been dismissed on this basis. Somerindyke also explained that there are grants available for testing. He explained that working with Bode and/or a genetic genealogist is a team effort. Teresa Vreeland, the Forensic Genealogy Case Manager, explained that the turn around time in these cases is sample-dependent and that in a best case scenario it takes about four weeks from DNA sample testing to develop a family tree that could yield a viable person of interest. The building out of a family tree could take much longer in some cases.

In response to my question, Vreeland was not aware of any other cases that have developed autosomal DNA from rootless hair evidence aside from the Bear Brook murder cases, but that they “are watching this closely.” John Somerindyke repeatedly told the law enforcement and prosecutors in the listening audience to call him or email him with questions. Law enforcement, if you are out there, his email is He was easy to understand and could walk anybody through what is involved.

Genetic genealogy is inevitable in the OCCK case if law enforcement really wants this solved. The owner of the hairs found on Tim and Mark and in Arch Sloan’s Bonneville is most likely not someone who is in CODIS. The man who was in the polaroid standing next to a naked boy Richard Lawson said Ted Lamborgine held out and said “looks like the King boy” [wink/wink] at Bobby Moore’s place is probably not in CODIS. No one was arresting pedophiles very often back in the 1970s. Of course Lawson just couldn’t remember who this man was. Lawson, convicted in 2006 for a 1989 murder, died in prison on September 8, 2012. Lamborgine is still alive and will spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted for multiple child rapes. He’s not talking.

The owner of those hairs is lucky technology has not caught up with him just yet. If the MSP isn’t willing to pursue the methods used to obtain autosomal level DNA from hair evidence (as in the Bear Brook case), all they will be left with is mtDNA. That is a true needle in a haystack unless someone comes forward with more names and the state police are willing to obtain DNA samples from these men or their relatives. Even then it will require a mountain of police work that I’m not sure the MSP is willing to do.

I listened to this webinar for free. It was an hour out of my day. I expect the Michigan State Police to do their jobs and get all of the evidence in the OCCK case re-evaluated using current DNA technology. There are people in law enforcement and other professions who work together to solve some very cold cases. Why won’t you partner with a genetic genealogist or call another agency who has had success with these methods? Quantico is behind the learning curve here. And in this case I believe the FBI has little interest in getting to the bottom of these murders. If the evidence is too degraded due to your storage methods, you need to answer to the public for this. Why does no one in the Detroit area media ever ask about this? You cannot have your cake and eat it, too–those hairs are such a big deal? GET ON IT.

%d bloggers like this: