New DNA Software Helps Identify Suspect in Child Abduction Case
The FBI, Cleveland police and Elyria police on Friday arrested a suspect in the kidnapping and attempted abduction of two Northeast Ohio girls this year. To help identify 29-year-old Justin Christian, the state crime lab relied on a new DNA technology.
City and county law enforcement had exhausted all of their leads in the case when Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine agreed to try software the state Bureau of Criminal Investigation had never used on an active case before -- “familial DNA search.”
“This DNA identifies someone with a genetic near match to the person who actually committed the crime,” says DeWine. “Could be a brother, father, or son.”
DeWine says the software uses DNA evidence to narrow down a suspect’s male family members to 200 possible matches within the state’s DNA database. Then Y chromosome testing helps further narrow down the possible relatives.
“That’s still just a potential relative of the person who committed the crime. It doesn’t mean it’s actually a relative. But it does mean there’s a high probability this person is related to the person who committed the crime.”
Further detective work led investigators to Justin Christian – a Lorain County resident with familial connections near the homes of both victims.
The State Attorney General's office has developed a protocol when the familial DNA search will be used in a case -- if it's a crime of violence that's a continued threat to the community and the crime cannot be solved using traditional methods.
In a press conference on Monday, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty says Christian may have used social media to target the victims.
Investigators are still looking at the suspect's electronic communications, but McGinty says, indications are that social media was a factor in the case.
“Many of these predators try to approach children acting as children. And they get on KIK or some of these other social media, have interchanges with them and then learn where they live by exchanging information – ‘Well, my favorite ice cream store is up at the corner and they serve this ice cream. Where is your favorite ice cream store?’ So then they zero in on a neighborhood, ‘Well I know someone on Elm St,’ and then they work it until they know where the kid lives.”
Christian is accused of kidnapping and raping a 6 year-old Cleveland girl in May and attempting to abduct a 10 year-old Elyria girl in February.