Las Vegas police seem to have broken the record using ancestors to find cold case suspects. BBC News reports to law enforcement from Vegas receivables that in 1989 he solved the murder of 14-year-old Stephanie Isaacson (pictured here) using the smallest known volume of DNA. The researchers sent just 0.12 nanograms of DNA samples or about 15 cells to Othram’s gene sequencing lab to help find a match. For context, typically home DNA testing kit collects at least 750 nanograms.
Othram used the sequences to comb through ancestral databases and pinpoint the suspect’s cousin and identify Darren Roy Marchand as the culprit. The team confirmed the match by comparing the sample against Marchand’s DNA from the arrest in the 1986 murder case. Marchand was never convicted and died in 1995.
Vegas police launched an investigation after resident Justin Woo donated money to help police solve cases using a “minimum” level of DNA. The investigation in Othram began on January 19, but it was not until July 12 that the company identified the suspect.
Othram chief David Mittlemen characterized the effort as a “big milestone” in a discussion for the BBC. This could theoretically solve cold cases in which samples were previously considered too small to be usable.
However, the discovery will not necessarily delight everyone. There were concerns that law enforcement could violate privacy when conducting these tests, and the Ministry of Justice has established guidelines precisely to prevent such kinds of abuse. While there is no indication that Vegas authorities have crossed borders in the Richardson case, a much larger range of potentially solvable cases also expands the potential for more privacy breaches.
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