A relatively new DNA technology reportedly played a crucial role in solving a serial rape case in Lexington, Kentucky.
The suspect, George Wayne Aldridge, was arrested and charged with multiple counts of rape, sodomy, kidnapping, sexual abuse, and wanton endangerment, stemming from incidents reported between 2009 and 2016.
The technology used in this case is called forensic genetic genealogy (FGG), which goes beyond traditional DNA comparison methods and can identify connections to distant relatives by looking at more locations within the DNA. FGG technology allows for the creation of a family tree, which can help to identify human remains or potential suspects. This process is performed by outside companies as the Kentucky State Police crime lab is not equipped to do FGG testing.
FGG testing alone doesn’t solve a case, and it needs to be confirmed through further investigation and traditional DNA testing. FGG testing is costly, and its funding is generally not provided by the state or federal government. Laura Sudcamp and lab supervisor Whitney Collins explained the process and how it differs from the standard DNA testing that the lab does in-house.
We are looking at a very small number of locations, they are looking at the entire strand of the DNA. And it lets you look into those comparisons to thousands, millions of people who have their info loaded into the same place.
Laura Sudcamp, Kentucky State Police crime lab director
To address this, a Texas-based company named Othram has set up a crowd-funding site, DNA Solves, to help fund cases around the country that are believed to be likely candidates for successful identification. According to Dr. Kristen Mittelman, the Chief Development Officer at Othram, science is available today to solve many cases of unidentified remains, and financial issues shouldn’t hinder this:
Unfortunately the only thing that’s missing between these people remaining voiceless and not having their identity back is funding, and that shouldn’t be the case.
Dr. Kristen Mittelman, the Chief Development Officer at Othram
Forensic genetic genealogy (FGG) has been used to solve several other rape cases as well. In addition to the Lexington serial rape case, it has been used to solve a number of cold cases involving sexual assault, including the decades-old “Golden State Killer” case. The use of FGG has become increasingly common in recent years and has proven to be a valuable tool for law enforcement in solving crimes that were once thought to be unsolvable.
However, it’s worth noting that FGG is not a perfect solution and it’s still subject to limitations and challenges, such as the need for large, comprehensive DNA databases and the need for additional investigation and confirmation of results.
- Photo by Karl Edwards: instant images