A former attorney has been taken into custody in connection with a series of cold crime cases that occurred in Boston between 2007 and 2008.

Law enforcement officials have arrested Matthew J. Nilo, a 35-year-old from Boston, in relation to multiple rapes that took place several decades ago in the city. The suspect’s identification was made possible through the application of forensic genetic genealogy techniques.

According to Boston police, Nilo faces charges of three counts of aggravated rape, two counts of kidnapping, one count of assault with intent to rape, and one count of indecent assault and battery. Police reports indicate that the sexual assaults allegedly occurred on August 18, 2007; November 22, 2007; August 5, 2008; and December 23, 2008, within the Charlestown neighbourhood of Boston.

During a press conference, Boston Police Commissioner Michael Cox stated,

This arrest marks the culmination of an investigation that utilized genetic genealogy through the analysis of recovered evidence. All four cases are connected through DNA evidence.

Michael Cox, Boston Police Commissioner 

Nilo was apprehended in New Jersey following a collaborative investigation involving the Boston Police Department, the New Jersey Police Department, and the FBI’s Boston office. Commissioner Cox further explained how the detectives relied on  sexual assault evidence collection kits to assist in the identification of the suspect.

Additional resources for the investigation were made available through the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Grant, which supports the city’s efforts to investigate unsolved sexual assault crimes, as disclosed by Commissioner Cox. The review of unsolved sexual assault cases posing the greatest threat to public safety was initiated in May 2022, Commissioner Cox revealed.

Back in 2008, authorities announced the connection between the cases based on DNA evidence but were unable to identify a suspect at the time. Through the utilization of genetic genealogy techniques, detectives were able to search for relatives of an unknown suspect by leveraging voluntarily submitted DNA profiles in public databases, ultimately narrowing down the list of potential family members to a likely perpetrator.

The successful apprehension of Matthew J. Nilo through the utilization of genetic genealogy in decades-old rape cases exemplifies the transformative potential of this cutting-edge field in solving cold crime cases. Genetic genealogy is expected to play an increasingly significant role in future criminal investigations, particularly in cases where conventional investigative methods have reached a standstill.

Law enforcement agencies will continue to harness the power of genetic genealogy techniques to identify and apprehend perpetrators in cold crime cases. As DNA databases expand and more individuals voluntarily submit their genetic information for genealogical purposes, the pool of potential matches and relatives for unknown suspects will significantly grow, enhancing the likelihood of identifying those responsible for unsolved crimes.

Advancements in DNA analysis and interpretation, coupled with improved data sharing and collaboration among law enforcement agencies, will further bolster the efficacy of genetic genealogy in cold crime investigations. Agencies will invest in specialized training for detectives and forensic experts to effectively navigate the complexities of genetic genealogy and extract valuable leads from DNA evidence.

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