The Tale of the Abandoned Girl’s DNA that Led to a Notorious Cold Case
Editor’s Note: Forensic Magazine spoke with the detectives from multiple agencies who broke open the infamous Bear Brook Murders cold case in New Hampshire in January. The following is a narrative explaining how one determined California deputy’s work led to a DNA discovery, which was picked up by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s team of experts, which in turn allowed a group of New Hampshire cops to make an on-the-ground push to identify a long-lost killer.
Headley reached out to DNAAdoption.com, a site originally created for adoptees to find their birth parents through online autosomal and Y-DNA, and the assistance of volunteers. Headley found Barbara Rae-Venter, a genetic genealogy expert who volunteers with the site.
Most of the DNAAdoption cases at least have a place to start the search—a geographical location where the child was abandoned, or a clue as to where a person was born or came from. In this case, there was no leads other than the drifter who was not her biological father, Rae-Venter said.
“We didn’t have that piece of geography that we would normally have,” Rae-Venter told Forensic Magazine. “There were no clues. We did not even know whether Lisa was born in the U.S. or Canada. The drifter who had abducted her had quite literally been all over the U.S. and up into Quebec in the time around when it was believed Lisa was abducted.”
But they could try. Using a sample of Lisa’s DNA, they combed through several online databases looking for genetic clues. Upon Rae-Venter’s advice, Lisa submitted a DNA sample to each of the three genomics testing companies.
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