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Person's genealogy interest & DNA test results in murder convictions
Posted by: pRICE cUBE
Date: October 07, 2020 12:49PM
[people.com]

Chelsea Rustad knew very little about her family history.

“I couldn’t name a single one of my great-grandparents and I thought that was a little strange,” she tells PEOPLE.

In 2013, she decided to purchase a subscription to Ancestry.com to begin building her family’s tree. It became a hobby, and in 2015, she won a DNA kit after submitting a photo of herself.

She uploaded her profile but then didn't think much of it. Until 2018, when two officers from the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office in Washington state showed up at her door. “It was the first time I’d ever heard about the double homicide of the Canadian couple from 1987,” she says.

What the officers told her would change Rustad’s life — and her family — forever. The officers were investigating the 1987 murders of Canadians Jay Cook, 20, and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, 18, who were killed while on a trip to Seattle. Thanks to the DNA Rustad had submitted in her test kit, they had connected evidence from the crime scene to Rustad’s cousin, truck driver William Earl Talbott II, now 57.

In June 2019 Talbott was found guilty of two counts of murder and sentenced to two life sentences — making him the first person to be convicted as a result of genealogy research. Authorities who worked for decades to solve the case say they're very grateful for Rustad’s willingness to assist the investigation
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Re: Person's genealogy interest & DNA test results in murder convictions
Posted by: SteveO
Date: October 07, 2020 04:36PM
Heard a true crime podcast on this case recently. Fascinating (and sad) story. Didn't go into the detail mentioned above, just mentioned they got a DNA hit and solved it.
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Re: Person's genealogy interest & DNA test results in murder convictions
Posted by: DP
Date: October 07, 2020 05:42PM
I have discovered that one of my great-grandfathers just may have had two families going at the same time!





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Re: Person's genealogy interest & DNA test results in murder convictions
Posted by: neophyte
Date: October 07, 2020 06:17PM
There is some question as to the ethics in the methodology used in some of these "use DNA evidence to find a suspect" cases. IIRC, a case in CA involved law officers submitting a crime scene DNA sample in the name of a fictitious person, looking for a matching "relative" in the genealogy site's vast archive of users. "Looking for my long lost cousin, uncle, whatever". Then the officers did extensive background checks on all the DNA hits, looking for a likely suspect in the right place at the right time.

I don't know the particulars of the case cited above, nor the methodology used. But some genealogy website expressly forbid use of their databases by LEO.
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Re: Person's genealogy interest & DNA test results in murder convictions
Posted by: JoeH
Date: October 07, 2020 07:14PM
Quote
DP
I have discovered that one of my great-grandfathers just may have had two families going at the same time!

That can be more common than you would think. Especially years ago when people had a harder time keeping in contact and some occupations involved long periods away.

Or the two families were serial, but without benefit of getting a divorce in between. Heard about such a situation from my ex's grandfather back in the '90s. He had been contacted by someone years before working on putting together a family tree. The person she was asking about was a family black sheep who had left for California to make his fortune and never came back. Left a family behind, married again out West, and never bothered to divorce the first wife. The family only found out about it years later.
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Re: Person's genealogy interest & DNA test results in murder convictions
Posted by: Filliam H. Muffman
Date: October 07, 2020 08:36PM
The local news stations have done a few stories on this since it was a local historical case.



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Re: Person's genealogy interest & DNA test results in murder convictions
Posted by: PeterB
Date: October 07, 2020 09:05PM
There was an entire episode (the first episode in fact) of The Genetic Detective on this exact case -- and how a genetic genealogist basically cracked the case.

And yes, there are some VERY serious ethical questions about the methodology used, for sure.




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Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/07/2020 10:10PM by PeterB.
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