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OC Crime Lab was first in California to use familial DNA to solve cold case

In 2012, the OC Crime Lab solved a case that was 34 years old because of familial DNA. The case involved a woman that was sexually assaulted and murdered and the shooting of her friend in 1978. This case was solved by using DNA that was taken from crime scenes to identify family members of a suspected criminal.

Mary Hong, a forensic scientist at the Orange County Crime Lab had been trying to solve this case since 1996. She had made a DNA profile of the perpetrator using semen left on the victim.

There are only three states that allow this technique and California is one of them. This Santa Ana case is a landmark case in that it is the first time that familial DNA has led to an Orange County crime being solved. Although in California there is a limit for familial searches through DNA. These limits are sexual assaults and homicides where there is serious risk to public safety, as well as the fact that all other leads to the case have been exhausted. Since this case met these requirements, and with over 30 years of no new leads, the detectives of the cold case unit from Santa Ana Police Department requested authorization to use family DNA in their investigation.

The DNA produced a family match with the semen that had been left on the woman. Unfortunately, the detectives could not make an arrest. The assailant had a criminal history filled with assaults, robberies, and burglaries, but he had committed suicide in 1996. This case would have never been solved was it not for familial DNA because the assailant is deceased and his DNA would have never been put into the database.