“Someday maybe Michigan will get a conscience and submit DNA to the public genealogy registry…”Posted: October 28, 2020
This comment from a reader accompanied a link to this article about the resolution of the 1974 abduction and murder of five-year-old Siobhan McGuinness in Missoula, Montana.
Siobhan was last seen leaving a neighbor’s house in February 1974. Two days later her body was found 10 miles away. She had been beaten, stabbed and raped.
Crime scene DNA uploaded to a public genealogy website led to the identification of a man who died in 2012 as the killer. He was passing through Missoula in 1974 and committed this crime. The same genetic genealogy technique has been used to solve other cold-case rapes and murders, including that of the Golden Gate Killer.
“It really means the world. My dad never thought he would see this happen in his lifetime,” Siobhan’s half-sister Oona McGuinness told the station. “It’s a big deal. It’s a really big deal for us, and it’s a huge deal for the Missoula community. This affected almost everybody that lived there at that time and probably still some today.”
The FBI said Davis is also linked to the 1973 attempted abduction of an 8-year-old girl in the upstate New York town of Bath.
The killer’s 2012 obituary described him as “a loving husband, father and grandfather. It also said he was a born again Christian ‘who believed in the word of faith and he was ready to be with Jesus.'”
In this recent case, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) brought charges against a man in a 45-year-old rape and murder case. Charges were filed against a 65-year-old man who was identified a recent forensics breakthrough, through DNA, as a suspect in the crime. This man was in his 20s at the time of the crime.
Said the SLED Chief, Mark Keel: “Our agents and forensics experts work hard and are dedicated to bringing justice to those who commit crimes against our citizens, whether the crime was recent or happened more than 40 years ago, we will not stop in trying to solve the case.”
Don’t expect anything like this in the OCCK case. In Chapter 21 of Marney Keenan’s book, The Snow Killings, in a chapter appropriately named “Last Resorts,” she describes how in 2018 MSP lab scientists retested a vaginal swab taken from Kristine Mihelich’s autopsy in 1977. A partial Y-str DNA profile was identified from the swab. Y–male chromosome; str–short tandem marker; partial–not ideal but enough to exclude or not exclude suspects. The Snow Killings, p. 240.
But like the hair samples in this case, the DNA from the vaginal swab was extinguished during testing. This is often the case with degraded evidence that is not stored properly. So guess what? End of the road as far as further DNA testing. That will be the response–too bad, so sad, we tried (after being forced) and the evidence is too degraded.
CODIS (the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System which links biological evidence from crime scenes with offenders) doesn’t address mtDNA or Y-str DNA samples. Presumably the partial Y-str sample was in fact checked against all the men they have DNA samples on in this case and all of them were excluded, but as of July 2018 there were still comparisons that needed to be done. Think the job is finished?
So the MSP doesn’t get to just use the “extinquished during testing” response or the “evidence is too old!” answer. In all of these other cases around the country from the same era (and era where “DNA” meant nothing at the time), these agencies managed to properly store and test 40-year-old evidence. The taxpayers and residents of Michigan are owed an explanation.
Don’t forget, this was the biggest manhunt ever in the country at the time. These jokers put the case to bed and fling the evidence into the wind with no attempt to preserve the record? Answers must be given. It is inexcusable and indefensible and perhaps criminal.
I hope you have had a chance to read The Snow Killings. Only then you will have some larger sense of why this is all so very, very wrong. At page 238-39, Marney Keenan describes more evidentiary snafus discovered by Det. Cory Williams:
Forensics technician Mel Paunovich had lifted 33 latent fingerprints from the interiors of Arch Sloan’s and John Crosbie’s cars. In all probability, those prints had never been submitted for comparison to the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), because the system wasn’t in place until 1999. Created by the FBI, IAFIS stores the fingerprints and criminal histories of over 70 million persons. All Williams had to do was locate the prints.
Williams searched the Southfield Police Department where the cars were originally processed. Then the lab at the Michigan State Police Sterling Heights Post, followed by the evidence room at the MSP post in Oak Park, the Detroit FBI lab, and finally the lab at MSP headquarters in Lansing. The most he could find was a report that showed 17 of the latent prints from Sloan’s car had been compared to the four OCCK victims’ back in 1977, with no match. After a four-month intense search, Williams had to accept defeat. The fingerprints had long since disappeared. He was beyond frustrated. “How can they lose these prints!” he wrote in his notes. “Really pisses me off!”The Snow Killings, Inside the Oakland County Child Killer Investigation, Keenan, Marney (Exposit Books 2020), p. 238-39.
Let that sink in as you consider the likelihood of any announcement like the ones from Missoula or South Carolina in the OCCK case.