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True Crime – Familial DNA –
Each person’s DNA is unique and the reason DNA is powerful evidence. When someone leaves their DNA at a crime scene; they were there.
Though a person’s DNA is one-of-a-kind, the DNA of family members resemble each other. The closer the relationship, for example, parents, the more similar the DNA. As the distance in relationships grow, say, 2nd cousins, the commonalities lessen, but are still telling.
It’s the way that commercial DNA companies trace your family tree. In some cases, surprising results may upset long held believes. For example, imagine learning you had a sibling for the 1st time.
Looking for similarities, law enforcement is conducting searches, hoping to use the information to identify suspects in current and cold cases.
Two types of searches are possible, one is of the criminal data base. Using the samples collected from people arrested and those who voluntarily gave police their DNA, officials search to see if the DNA from a crime scene is close to one in the system.
The larger and more controversial pool of DNA records are the genealogy data bases that the public use to find relatives and ancestors.
In both cases, finding a relative with DNA similarities gives the police something to work with. They can look at the relations of the close match and using standard practices, investigate to see if any of them knew the victim or was in the area, etc.
How is this accomplished? In all DNA, there are genetic markers. Technicians, focusing on twenty critical markers, run the DNA through software that compares the crime scene DNA against the data base.
A match on half of the critical markers, strongly suggests a person is the parent, child or sibling of the suspect. Technicians who do the familial searches, provide detectives with a list of matches, starting with the closest relatives.
It should be noted that several DNA services, including 23AndMe and Ancestry, no longer share their data based with the police.
The inability to access many consumer DNA sites impacts the police’s ability to use this important tool. Familial DNA is also facing opposition from civil libertarians, who are concerned about privacy and racial profiling.
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