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Idaho Murder Suspect Identified through DNA and Genealogy Databases

Idaho Murder Suspect Identified through DNA and Genealogy Databases

Police say they matched a DNA sample at the scene to Bryan Kohberger’s relatives. 

Legal Insurrection readers may recall my report on police using a combination of DNA and genealogy databases to identify suspects in cold cases. Such cases include that of the Golden State Killer, who was sentenced to life for a string of rapes and slaughters.

The techniques have now gotten to the point that they can be used for much hotter cases. It is being reported that police identified Bryan Christopher Kohberger as the suspect accused of murdering four University of Idaho students through DNA using public genealogy database.

A law enforcement source familiar with the matter told CNN that police found unknown DNA at the scene of the killings. However, the DNA didn’t match anything within the police system, so police utilized genealogical techniques. The unknown DNA was run through a public database, which identified relatives of the suspect.

“Subsequent investigative work” done by police led to graduate student Bryan Kohberger being identified.

An expert in this identification process offered some background on how the identification might have been accomplished.

“In 99 our of 100 stabbing deaths, the killer is going to injure himself, especially when there was a struggle. So most likely the killer’s blood was at the scene,” said Colleen Fitzpatrick, of Identifiners International.

Fitzpatrick didn’t work on the Kohberger case, but has helped solve other high profile cases. She was instrumental in finding out the identity of the child known as the boy in the box. He was discovered in 1957, but his identity was just revealed in late 2022. She used the same database to find relatives.

“This is a revolution in human identification. We are benefiting from it,” she said.

Once law enforcement obtains DNA of a potential suspect, they create a profile of it and it’s then run through an FBI database. If there are no matches, then they can move to a public database.

There are two that law enforcement can get access to solve homicides and sexual assaults: GenMatch and Family Tree DNA. These are sites where people voluntarily upload their data, and can allow police to search for matches.

Once a suspect is identified via genealogy, the police continue the investigation.

Undercover or covert teams then follow the suspect and surreptitiously obtain a sample from them in order to compare it to the sample found at the crime scene, that was used in the DNA tracing.

[CeCe Moore, Chief Genetic Genealogist at Parabon Nanolabs and the founder of DNA Detectives] who has turned over similar evidence to cops 250 times through her company – says this part of the process is often carried out in the same way it is portrayed in films and TV shows.

‘Genetic genealogy is only a lead generator – it’s not evidence.

‘It can’t be used to arrest anyone or in a warrant. We’ll write a report up, explain how we came to this conclusion, then law enforcement have to take this information and do a full investigation. It’s a highly scientific tip but police still have to start from scratch once they get it.

‘They have to go and collect their DNA, which they do by following them. We’ve heard that’s what happened in this case.

‘People don’t get arrested based on my work alone.

Moscow Police Chief James Fry explained that once Koberger was identified, tips flooded in.

Within an hour of Kohberger being identified as the suspect, more than 400 calls came in to the Moscow Police Department’s tip line, Fry said.

Kohberger is set to appear in Monroe County Court to face his charges, which include four counts of first-degree murder and burglary.

It is also the first step in his extradition to Idaho, where he will have another appearance.

Monroe County Chief Public Defender Jason LaBar, who is representing the suspect, previously said Kohberger “intends to waive his extradition hearing to expedite his transport to Idaho” and that he “is eager to be exonerated of these charges and looks forward to resolving these matters as promptly as possible.”

Police have said they cannot reveal any information, including a motive or further details about how they tracked down Kohberger, until he is back in Idaho.


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nordic prince | January 4, 2023 at 9:28 am

Yet another reason to be wary of submitting one’s DNA to God knows who/where for the ostensible purpose of discovering one’s ancestors.

For every noble/innocent intent there is at least one that is nefarious and/or privacy invading.

    healthguyfsu in reply to nordic prince. | January 4, 2023 at 11:51 am

    It doesn’t matter if you submit yours or not. They know who you are and can track via close relatives who did submit their sample.

      CommoChief in reply to healthguyfsu. | January 4, 2023 at 12:58 pm

      Kinda. True that an uncle’s DNA can get close to a match, at least close enough to look for other ties to the crime by a relative present in the area of the crime. It can certainly assist with an investigation but a relative’s DNA isn’t enough to convict by itself. The less people willing to submit samples the more holes in the database.

There is a pact amongst my extended family that none of us will utilize any of those voluntary genetic testing labs. If any entity wants our DNA it will be via court order and done after the police have tazed and forcibly restrained us.

    henrybowman in reply to Obbop. | January 4, 2023 at 11:14 am

    In a world full of Facebook and TikTok, don’t expect other people to respect your privacy any more than they value their own. As a lever for authoritarian social control, Facebook beats the Dark Ages confessional ten ways from Sunday.

    TheOldZombie in reply to Obbop. | January 4, 2023 at 3:55 pm

    They just have to watch you and the moment your throw away something, food in particular, in public they have your DNA. Hell they could watch you go to the barber and bribe the barber to hand over some strands of your hair.

Within an hour of Kohberger being identified as the suspect, more than 400 calls came in to the Moscow Police Department’s tip line, Fry said.

It’s funny how everyone knew something AFTER the fact.

    Just remember the *incredible* cruft to pearl ratio on tip lines. Sometimes it takes thousands of tips to turn over one actual bit of useful information. Good work to the police for using public DNA databases the way they’re supposed to be used, and a cautionary eye kept on them if they decide to abuse this valuable tool instead of keeping it for critical cases such as this.

    Also, a reminder to the police community to keep your evidence collecting chain of custody iron-clad and tight, unlike the OJ Simpson case. Just because you *have* DNA evidence doesn’t mean the case is over and the perp in prison. Dot your i’s and cross your t’s, and don’t test the suspects DNA until *all* of the samples from the crime scene have been collected and analyzed.

Apparently the monster is really acting out in jail, exposing himself to females and threatening to harm

Sound about right

He use to be heroin addict, wonder what his toxicoreport had, any traces…

“There are two that law enforcement can get access to solve homicides and sexual assaults: GenMatch and Family Tree DNA. These are sites where people voluntarily upload their data, and can allow police to search for matches.”

Or at least that’s the official (“wet market”) narrative.

In real life, expect to learn that vanity genealogy companies, such as 23AndMe, Ancestry, MyHeritage, and Teladoc Health, are monetizing the DNA samples sent in by the public in a novel, old-Twitter-model “public-private partnership” arrangement… or at least reselling your data with one of these other two companies who does.

“Baby’s into runnin’ around, hangin’ with the crowd /
Puttin’ your business in the street, talkin’ out loud…”

    ^^ THIS ^^

    These large tech companies cannot be trusted. They’re often run by people who did not grow up here and don’t understand how our system of government and personal liberties are supposed to work. And they’re largely staffed with raving lunatic progressives who are totalitarians at heart. They’ll trample the Bill of Rights in a heartbeat if they think they can make a buck, or stomp their foot down on somebody guilty of wrong-think.

    CommoChief in reply to henrybowman. | January 4, 2023 at 1:00 pm


    Boz Scaggs? Dude you get cooler every day.

    nordic prince in reply to henrybowman. | January 4, 2023 at 1:31 pm

    Bingo. You have NO IDEA what third parties are buying your DNA, and don’t think it isn’t for sale. Probably ends up ultimately in a Chinese lab.

    ALL of your data is sold to third parties, whether it be genetic data, online habits, loyalty programs, etc. Big Data is big business, and they are milking us like cattle.

COVID pulled the cloak up from what tyrants will do in the name of science and which tools they will use to achieve their ends.

The ancestry stuff leads to a dark place for future tyranny.

BTW- A gun in the bedroom of any of the victims would have stopped this killer. Just ask my college house mate.

    gonzotx in reply to Andy. | January 4, 2023 at 12:19 pm

    My daughter has a neighbor who is FBI, yuck, she insists he’s one of the good guys and very conservative. I told her be very careful around him
    Anyway, he’s offered to teach her to feel comfortable carrying and shooting. I mean her husband has at least 50 guns and lydia has a few but she never goes to the range to shoot and doesn’t feel
    Confident carrying with the kids around.
    If you knew these 2 you would agree
    Anyway , he’s going to take her , me and a few others to the range and give lessons.

    I have 2 Pits amd I feel
    Very comfortable at home, they are off the charts protective of me and the home, but you
    Can’t just live in your home and if a group of intruders come, well, I need to protect them too.

    GWB in reply to Andy. | January 4, 2023 at 12:46 pm

    Not necessarily. A gun in THAT bedroom would have stopped him. IF anyone could reach it and knew how to use it. And while it likely could have stopped the murderer, it might not have stopped him before at least one of them was fatally stabbed.

    Firearms are good protection. But they have to be implemented properly and other protections can be even more helpful (awareness, locks, alarms, etc.).

      CommoChief in reply to GWB. | January 4, 2023 at 1:04 pm

      Indeed. Layers of defensive security, some passive, some active. The more passive and deterrent layers the less likely to need the active layers. A good guardian breed dog straddles both.

    Tionico in reply to Andy. | January 5, 2023 at 2:50 pm

    other than they are banned from university property in almost every state, yes. One advantage to off campus housing. Me? I’d never live in housing owned by some public entity, at least not willingly. I remember when I think it was in Massachussetts where some large low income pulic housing swamp had a no guns in any of the homes” policy. Ine resident sued, it took years, but finally I think it was a federal level court said the housing “authority” could not deny rights guaranteed under the Second Article of Ammendment thus the possession if arms in those homes was illegal. Set a precedent that has grown across the country. But that is U property thus they think they can mandate.

E Howard Hunt | January 4, 2023 at 12:14 pm

Kohberger is innocent. The case against him has all the hallmarks of a Russian disinformation campaign.

filiusdextris | January 4, 2023 at 3:11 pm

Ok, this evidence, so-called, identifies that he was at the crime scene that also doubles a party house. What evidence do they have that he was there that night? Was the DNA evidence based on blood splatter or hairs?

    Tionico in reply to filiusdextris. | January 5, 2023 at 3:07 pm

    I recall reading recently that police DID have DNA retrieved from two or more of the murder victims’ bodies under circumstances to very strongly suggest a clear connexion between the now-dead victim and the then-unknown perpetrator. I believe this was the case with at least two of the victims who had been found dead in two different places. IF his DNA is a rock solid match to that retrieved from the two victims in different places that would strongly suggest that the source of that DNA would have to have been in both places, separated by some distance, on the same night, the night of the murders. Two females murdered in diffferent places the same night both carrying the DNA of the same man is a high bar to beat. WHich to me explains why local coppers have been being so through.

As a crime victim, I loathe criminals, so I specifically allow law enforcement to have access in case it might help anyone. Good luck figuring out my DNA relatives though.

You mention something you call “GenMatch.” I think you mean “GEDmatch.”

Just read affidavit for arrest warrant. No genealogy database involved. K identified as a suspect by tracking his cell phone and identifying the white Elantra on multiple video surveillance devices. They then identified DNA in the trash at his father’s house as almost certainly that of the father of the source of DNA on a knife sheath left at murder scene.