ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department solved a decades-old mystery with the help of a new and unique DNA project. It happened in a partnership with police and a genetic genealogy program.
The breakthrough could be just the start of solving crime mysteries. In this case, police got two critical answers. They solved a missing person’s case from 1990, and they tied it to skeletal remains found in 1992 in the Central West End.
St. Louis Police homicide detective Heather Sabin made the discovery that answered a 32-year-old mystery.
“From the day he went missing (March 25, 1990) to the day I got notified that this was T.J. (March 25 of this year), 32 years to the day,” she said.
We now know a composite sketch from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is T.J. Emily.
He was 18 when he disappeared after walking out of a home where he was staying on Rauschenbach Avenue in St. Louis.
“He was going to go visit an uncle,” said Detective Sabin.
He was found two years later in a building that no longer exists in the Central West End, but police didn’t know it was him. The skeleton could not be identified, and police found no matches in the DNA database called CODIS.
Detective Sabin tried something new – reaching out to a non-profit group that uses genetic genealogy, the DNA Doe Project.
“Any police department that has any DNA that can be used, or bones or teeth or blood cards, any of that stuff as long as it’s not extremely degraded, we can do this on it,” said Tracie Boyle, an investigative genetic genealogy team lead.
She worked with police on making this breakthrough identification
“They were amazed,” Boyle said. “We came back, I want to say it was a week or so after we got the kit. We were able to identify him.”
Here’s how it works. The organization compared DNA collected by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police department against genetic testing results that average citizens took with home test kits.
DNA Doe Project only has access to those results people voluntarily upload to the genealogy research websites GEDmatch and Family Tree DNA.
“It’s amazing that little segment passed down from your ancestors can just help identify who you are,” she said.
Detective Sabin added, “It’s never too late, and you know T.J. Emily still has family out there and they still love him, and they care for him, and they want to be able to put him to rest and that’s what we’re doing.”
A homicide investigation continues as St. Louis Police are already looking to solve other cases with the new technology.
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