, 2022-08-19 09:13:43,
The Sebastopol-based DNA Doe Project, which uses cutting edge science to solve cold cases, has entered “a multiyear partnership” with the Sonoma County Coroner Unit to investigate up to 20 unsolved cases in the area.
The announcement comes as the organization ramps up its nationwide outreach.
In April, DNA Doe Project co-founder Margaret Press and some fellow members left their comfort zone and went to Las Vegas, where they set up their booth at Crime Con, a convention devoted to true crime.
“We were a little nervous,” she recalled. “We thought we’d be the geeks in the room.”
The DNA Doe Project’s volunteer army of 80-or-so citizen scientists doesn’t usually catch killers. What they do, using techniques they’ve pioneered in the promising new field of investigative genetic genealogy, is identify previously unnamed Jane and John Does — returning names to people who died years, and often decades, earlier.
They were a huge hit at Crime Con, where people were invited to stop by the DNA Doe booth to upload their data from genetic testing services — 23andMe and Ancestry.com — to GEDmatch.
GEDmatch is a database popular with people trying to track down family members. By uploading their data on the spot, attendees could see if they were a relative match to any of the Jane or John Does featured on a poster in the booth.
While there were no close matches, so many people participated, said Press, that “we were personally responsible for a 10% to 20% spike in GEDmatch uploads that weekend.”
The DNA Doe Project has become a go-to organization for law enforcement agencies and medical examiners across North America — including one in its backyard. it recently took five unsolved cases from the Sonoma County coroner.
The process is complex and expensive. After DNA is extracted from forensic matter — a bone, a tooth, a hair — that material is processed, then put into a sequencing machine. The resulting data is then analyzed by bioinformatic virtuoso Kevin Lord, who distills it to a smaller file that can then be uploaded to GEDmatch, at which point the DNA Doe Project’s armchair detectives can start doing their thing.
Three of those five cases are already in GEDmatch, said Press. They are Wohler Bridge John Doe, whose remains were discovered in Forestville 18 years ago; Motorcycle Mountain John Doe, found in 2001 in Monte Rio; and Leveroni Road John Doe, whose skeletal remains were found in a shallow grave near Sonoma in…
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