Investigators asking people to volunteer DNA to help solve cold cases

Florida — Local investigators are asking for help to solve some of the thousands of cold cases here in Florida.

Project: Cold Case, Forensic Genealogy and Southeastern Homicide Investigators Association (SHIA) are providing free DNA testing kits at its 5th annual Year of Hope fundraiser on Saturday. The group is asking for people to participate in the testing and upload their results to DNA solves or another public database for agencies to compare to DNA in unsolved cases. Several members of law enforcement are pledging to do the same.

“The reason law enforcement is participating is because they feel it’s important to show, we’re not asking you to do something that we wouldn’t do ourselves.” Ryan Backmann, Founder of Project: Cold Case, said. He has worked with dozens of families who have lost a loved one and don’t have answers.

“Always in the back of their head is who did it?” Backmann said. “How come they haven’t been held accountable?” Backmann said. Her adds genetic genealogy is the biggest breakthrough in cold case investigations since DNA. “This is too powerful a tool.” Backmann said. “We’ve already seen over 100 cases solved using this technology.”

Deputies said familial DNA could be the future of solving cold cases. For example, if you give your DNA, you will find out information on your family’s background. But, if detectives have access to it, they can compare it to untapped DNA in their cold cases.

“Once they identify who they think that person is then law-enforcement has to go out and prove that that person had the opportunity, the motive, was in the area.” Backmann said. “You know you can’t just pick somebody out of the air.“

Just last March, Thomas Garner of Jacksonville was arrested in a 34-year-old cold case. Seminole County Sheriff’s Office deputies said they used data from a genealogy test to connect him to the murder of a 25-year-old Orlando navy recruit.

“Hopefully we will build up these databases with more and more data so that more more cases can get solved.“ Backmann said.

Before uploading your DNA results to any website, check the privacy policy. Backmann said—in this instance—they are asking people to use DNA Solves, which only law enforcement has access.

When it comes to at home genetic testing kits, you must check a box to share your DNA. If you opt in to do such, you’re consenting to: your genetic data, age and ethnicity being shared with other at-home DNA kit users. You are also allowing partnering researchers to access your information for data purposes.