Arrest made in Karina Vetrano’s murder

Photo of Katrina Vetrano wearing a medal from participating in the Spartan RaceA few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post on how the Queens DA had sent a request to the New York State Commissioner of Criminal Justice Services asking for permission to use familial searching of DNA to help solve the murder of Karina Vetrano, a thirty-year-old jogger who was brutally raped and murdered while out for a run on Howard Beach. Basically, what happened here is the police have DNA from the crime scene, but it doesn’t match anyone in the CODIS database. They wanted the state of New York to allow them to search for familial hits in the system to try to track down their killer. For example, maybe someone related to the killer has been arrested of a felony and if they could find a familial hit, it could lead them to their killer. I’ve been keeping tabs on this case, as while I agree that allowing law enforcement to use familial DNA searches could help solve a lot of crimes that have gone unsolved for years, I also worry it is a slippery slope when it comes to an individual’s right to privacy.  Click here to read the full blog post!

Should familial DNA searching be legal in all 50 states?

CODIS (Combined DNA Index System) logoYou know the drill: a murder is committed and investigators gather evidence from the crime scene–fingerprints, strands of hair, and, if they’re lucky, DNA. Once a DNA profile is obtained, police enter it into the national CODIS database, searching for a match. CODIS stands for Combined DNA Index System, a program supported and run by the FBI. One part of CODIS is the NDIS, or the National DNA Index System, which contains DNA profiles contributed by the federal, state, and local law enforcement. Whenever law enforcement enters a new DNA profile into CODIS, it is in hopes that the computer program will return a match. Sometimes that match comes in the form of another crime scene that has been entered into the system that maybe police did not think were linked. Sometimes that match comes in the form of a direct hit on an individual whose DNA has already been submitted into the system after a prior conviction. Sometimes there is no match at all and the case turns cold. In the rarest of occasions, however, there is another kind of hit–a familial match.
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Cal Harris acquitted in wife’s 2001 murder

Photo of Cal HarrisIt has been 15 years and a total of four murder trials for New York millionaire and businessman Calvin Harris. This week, the wild ride finally came to an end as a judge acquitted him of killing his wife, Michele. I’ve been mulling that verdict over the last few days, dancing around writing a blog post about it but not knowing where to start. You see, if you have read my book Missing Wives, Missing Lives, you’ll know that I don’t believe Cal is innocent. His actions on the morning of September 12, 2001, when he claimed to discover his wife did not come home the night before just don’t sit well with me. He’d threatened to kill her in the past. The couple was in the middle of a bitter divorce. And yet Cal didn’t seem to even bat an eye when Michele’s abandoned minivan was discovered near the end of the long, winding Harris driveway with the keys still in the ignition. Instead of reporting his wife missing, he took her car to work with him that same morning and cleaned it out.
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Patty Vaughan has been missing for 19 years

Image of Patty Vaughan

For most families, Christmas day is a time to gather with the entire family and celebrate life, love, and togetherness. For one family in La Vernia, Texas, Christmas day is a painful memory. It is the day their beloved daughter, sister, and mother, Patty Inez Brightwell Vaughan, mysteriously disappeared nineteen years ago. Those close to the investigation have long suspected Patty’s then-husband, J.R. Vaughan, in her disappearance. You might recall this particular case from my first book, Missing Wives, Missing Lives. Each Christmas, I say a silent prayer for Patty and her family, in hopes that one Christmas, they will have the answers to their questions and justice will have been served.

If you have information about this case, please think of Patty’s family on Christmas day and call 210-335-TIPS.

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“Her name was Bella Bond.”

Bella Bond, left, and the computer-generated image used to learn her identity, right.

A few weeks ago, I posted about Baby Doe, a young girl whose body was found wrapped in a blanket and a trash bag, discarded on Deer Island in Boston.  For several months, we all wondered who this child could be–how no one could notice a sweet, innocent girl had gone missing. Today, we know who she was, and two arrests have been made in the case.
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Who Is Baby Doe?

Image of Baby DoeOn June 25, 2015, a woman walking her dog along the beaches of Deer Island discovered a trash bag that contained the body of a young child. Three weeks later, a computer-generated image of the young girl, dubbed “Baby Doe” has been viewed millions of times and we still don’t know who she is. Baby Doe was approximately 4 years old when she died. She weighed just thirty pounds and stood at three-and-a-half feet tall. She had brown eyes and brown hair.
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