Today is my stop on the blog tour for The Family Tree by Steph Mullin & Nicole Mabry, and I am excited to be sharing a guest post with you all.
A massive thank you to @AvonBooksUK for allowing me to be a part of the tour, and for providing me with the content for this guest post.
Most people have heard of The Golden State Killer case and his arrest because of genetic genealogy in 2018, that it all came down to a familial DNA match from an ancestry kit. But since then, many more cases have also been solved using genealogy. When GSK, Joseph James DeAngelo, was identified using the public company GEDMatch, the company added a banner at the top of the site alerting users that law enforcement was now using the database and they would need to ‘opt in’ to allow this. The field of genetic genealogy has since burst onto the criminal investigative scene. This new avenue of investigating not only current crimes, but cold cases that have been sitting on a shelf for decades, has revolutionized the way law enforcement tackles difficult cases. Outside of GSK, which inspired The Family Tree, here are five of our favorite cases solved by genetic genealogy from around the world.
1 – The Case of the Missing Lovebirds (USA)
CeCe Moore is a self-taught genetic genealogist who became engrossed in genealogy after building out her own family tree. Adoptees began asking CeCe to use her techniques to find their biological family. Nobody had done this before, and it proved very successful. As a leader in the genealogy community, Moore felt it would be wrong to use consumer profiles for law enforcement purposes without consumers’ knowledge. It wasn’t until GEDMatch added that banner on their site that CeCe’s ethical dilemma disappeared. CeCe wanted to use her talents to help catch criminals so she joined forces with Parabon, a DNA technology company that works with law enforcement. Her first case was the murders of boyfriend and girlfriend, Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg in Snohomish county, the Lovebirds. After taking a ferry to Seattle from British Colombia for an overnight trip in 1987, Jay and Tanya’s bodies were found 50 miles apart in Washington. Tanya had been raped and shot in the back of the head, while Jay had been strangled. Their van was found miles away with surgical gloves and zip ties inside. The case had been cold for 32 years, but a savvy medical examiner preserved a semen sample found on Tanya’s pants. This sample led to a full DNA profile to run against CODIS but did not receive any hits in the database. Enter CeCe Moore. The case was given to her on a Friday. Moore identified the killer, William Talbot II, in just 2 hours by building out his family tree. She spent the rest of the time unsuccessfully trying to prove herself wrong, before delivering her results on Saturday. Talbot was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences for the double murder of Cook and Van Cuylenborg.
2 – Mohammed Ammouri and Anna-Lena Svensson (Sweden)
On October 19, 2004, 8-year-old Mohammed Ammouri was stabbed and killed on his way to school. Shortly after, 56-year-old Anna-Lena Svensson was also attacked and died of her injuries. It’s suspected that Svensson witnessed the unprovoked attack and tried to run back to her house. Witnesses said the attacker walked away calmly after dropping the knife, leaving traces of his own blood and hair behind. Despite this DNA evidence, law enforcement found no matches and the case went cold. But in 2019, a new law gave Swedish police the go ahead to use genealogy methods like those used in the GSK case. Family history researchers and geneticists went to work building out the suspect’s family tree with possible relatives. Initially, they arrested a man, but his DNA wasn’t a 100% match. They then zeroed in on the man’s brother, Daniel Nyqvist, who ended up being a 100% match to the DNA left behind at the crime scene. Nyqvist was diagnosed with a severe psychological disorder and has been sentenced to psychiatric care. This case was the second largest criminal investigation in Swedish history.
3 – Christine Jessop (Canada)
Christine Jessop, 9 years-old, went missing on October 3,1984 from Queensville, Ontario. She was last seen buying gum at a convenience store close to her home, on her way to meet a friend at a nearby park. Her remains were found three months later over an hour away from Queensville. She had been raped and murdered. A DNA sample was found and logged from her underwear. Initially, Jessop’s neighbor, Guy Paul Morin, was charged and convicted with her murder. But when DNA technology advanced, Morin was cleared of the crimes and the case went cold. Years later, Ontario police jumped on the new genealogy techniques and started building up the family tree from the DNA on file from Jessop’s case. From this they were able to narrow it down to Calvin Hoover, a friend and neighbor of the Jessop family. Christine and her brother used to play with Hoover’s children. Unfortunately, Hoover had committed suicide years before his DNA confirmed him as the killer, so we will never know what prompted him to commit the crime.
4 – Gladys Godfrey (Britain)
In April 2001, 87-year-old Gladys Godfrey fought off an intruder in her home by hitting him with a lemonade bottle. Her attacker left DNA and fingerprints behind, but police found no matches in their database. Sixteen months later, the attacker came back and raped and murdered Gladys, again leaving DNA behind and letting police know it was the same man. Gladys had a broken neck and a fractured skull. Police swabbed over a thousand men in an attempt to identify her murderer, but no matches were found. Frances Bates, a senior intelligence officer, was given the task of creating a family lineage from the DNA sample in the hopes of narrowing down the suspects. It would be the first time in Britain that familial lineage would be used to track a murderer. They narrowed the potential suspect list down to 20 names. A male relative of Jason Ward, who lived just a mile and a half from Godfrey was near the top of the list. This led to testing DNA and fingerprints from Ward, and they finally had their match. Jason Ward pled guilty to the rape and murder of Glady Godfrey and was sentenced to life in prison.
5 – Carla Brooks (US)
Most of CeCe Moore’s cases are cold cases, but in 2018 Moore worked on her first active case. Carla Brooks was 79 years-old when a man broke into her home while she was sleeping and raped and robbed her. Police were able to pull a DNA sample of her attacker from her sheets. With this evidence, police were hopeful they could solve the crime quickly. However, no matches were found upon loading the sample into their database. Just weeks later, California police announced the capture of GSK using genealogy. Detective Josh Wilson hoped this same technique could be used to find Brooks’ rapist. Wilson got in touch with CeCe Moore and handed her the case. A new pressure was on Moore to catch the perpetrator before he struck again. Within weeks, Moore was able to narrow the suspect pool down to four brothers. Wilson investigated each brother, ruling one out fairly quickly. Another brother had recently moved away to Arizona, so Wilson lured Spencer Monnett back to the Utah police station under the guise of taking care of a traffic warrant. Under questioning, Monnett admitted to the first-degree felony rape of Carla Brooks. He was sentenced to five years to life for the crime.
A Huge thank you to Steph Mullin & Nicole Mabry for this fantastic guest post!
STEPH AND NICOLE’S BOOK THE FAMILY TREE IS OUT NOW!
The DNA results are back. And there’s a serial killer in her family tree…
Liz Catalano is shocked when an ancestry kit reveals she’s adopted. But she could never have imagined connecting with her unknown family would plunge her into an FBI investigation of a notorious serial killer…
The Tri-State Killer has been abducting pairs of women for forty years, leaving no clues behind – only bodies.
Can Liz figure out who the killer in her new family is? And can she save his newest victims before it’s too late?
A gripping, original thriller for fans of My Lovely Wife, Netflix’s Making a Murderer, and anyone who’s ever wondered what their family tree might be hiding…
About The Authors:
Steph works by day as Creative Director for a Media, Entertainment and Digital Marketing Solutions company, using early mornings, nights, and weekends to write fiction. Steph’s dream of becoming a writer started at age 6, followed by winning scholastic writing awards and crafting articles for her university’s literary magazine.
In her 20’s, she became engrossed in true crime podcasts and literature, which later became the perfect source of inspiration to launch her second career writing dark and twisty thrillers. In 2018, Steph relocated from NYC to Charlotte, North Carolina where she currently resides with her husband and her rescue puppy. Outside of reading, writing, and playing with her dog, you may find her sipping on a soy latte, watching a new movie, or trying out new recipes in the kitchen.
Nicole works in television as Senior Manager of Post Production in the photography department. She is the author of Past This Point (2019, Red Adept Publishing), an award winning apocalyptic women’s fiction novel.
Past This Point was chosen as Best Book of the Year by Indies Today and won First Place in the Global Thriller division of the Chanticleer International Book Awards. For more information on Past This Point, click here.
Steph Mullin and Nicole Mabry met as co-workers in New York City in 2012, discovering a shared passion for writing and true crime. After Steph relocated to Charlotte, North Carolina in 2018, they continued to collaborate creatively. Separated by 5 states, they spend countless hours scheming via Facetime and editing each other’s typos in real time on live Google docs. The Family Tree is the writing duo’s first co-authored crime novel.
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