Parabon™ Rescues Profile from Mixed DNA to Enable Improbable Solve

June 30, 2022
Pioneering mixture deconvolution methods help resolve 1990 Snohomish County murder.

Reston, VA — On the last day of his 45-year career in law enforcement, Detective Jim Scharf of the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office closed yet another of the tough cases assigned to his cold case unit — the 1990 murder of 17-year-old Michelle Koski. Scharf had five unsolved murders he hoped to solve "before retirement" when he first contacted Parabon NanoLabs in 2018 and, with the company's help, he has closed all five.

"Every case is unique, from how the DNA sample needs to be processed in the lab, to the bioinformatics required to ensure the highest-quality results, to which analyses will help move the investigation forward," said Dr. Ellen Greytak, Parabon's Director of Bioinformatics. Greytak was recently invited to speak to the forensic genetics community on the importance of bioinformatics for genetic genealogy at the Gordon Research Conference on Forensic Analysis of Human DNA.

Among Scharf's successes was his investigation of the 1987 double murder of Jay Cook and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, for which Parabon's Chief Genetic Genealogist, CeCe Moore, performed the genetic genealogy analysis. With Moore's tip, Scharf's investigation led to the arrest of William Earl Talbott II and the case went on to make history as the first genetic genealogy case to result in a court conviction.

The crime scene sample in the Koski case was particularly challenging. It contained DNA from both the perpetrator and the victim. Dr. Janet Cady, Senior Bioinformatics Scientist at Parabon who performed the analysis said, "Without mixture deconvolution, the genetic genealogy matches would have included relatives of the victim and led investigators down the wrong path."

Det. Scharf underscored the importance of strong bioinformatics for advancing cases. "I'm sure there are hundreds of DNA cases out there going nowhere — where genotyping has already been performed — that could be solved if state-of-the-art bioinformatics methods were applied." He continued, "For our Investigative Genetic Genealogy work, Parabon's ability to deconvolute the mixture ensured that the matches we got would lead to the perpetrator, which they did." He thanked the Parabon team for their contributions to several of his investigations. "Together, we got them all solved!"

About Parabon NanoLabs, Inc.

Parabon NanoLabs is a vertically integrated DNA technology company that develops next-generation forensic and therapeutic products by leveraging the enormous power of DNA. Staffed by a uniquely qualified team of scientists and technologists whose expertise ranges from bioinformatics and chemistry to computer science and pharmacology, Parabon is bringing to market revolutionary new products and services made possible by recent advances in DNA sequencing, analysis and manufacturing technologies.

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