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Genetic genealogy provides a new investigative tool for solving old crimes like the Jessop case




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Janet Jessop holds a photo of her daughter Christine Jessop in 2004. Photo by File

Anthony Redgrave is a forensic genealogist who is currently with Redgrave Research but previously worked at Othram on the Jessop case. He explained National Post Office that conventional DNA testing is usually done with something called a short tandem repeats small pieces of DNA that change rapidly between individuals. STR information may be closely related to DNA matching, perhaps, between children, parents, and siblings.

In the case of Jessop, multiplier markers would be good for wider groupings of some distant cousins.

After the research team extracted the DNA information, Redgrave said, the team ran the data through GEDMatch and Family Tree DNA, the law enforcement databases available.

We form small groups of groups of people who are somehow connected, Redgrave explained.

That puts investigators in one direction, Mittelman said, which they can use to find suspects.

Genealogy will help you eliminate opportunities, but genealogy generally does not get you the right answer, he said.

What the Mittelmans lab does is look at the information they can gather from samples and then use it to build a genealogical or ancestral tree to identify wider families to which DNA may correspond.

We find these genetic relatives who share some of these markers, Mittelman said. You can basically put a stranger in a family tree and figure out who the candidates might be.

We can treat highly degraded DNA, we can treat very low quality DNA

Toronto police used the two families identified in Othram’s investigations to work back, creating a list of relationships before meeting a suspect. The information that Othram was unlocked from the unknown semen was then used along with a blood sample that the Center for Legal Sciences had on file to produce a DNA match: Hoover.

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