We heard from CeCe Moore, the chief genetic genealogist with Parabon NanoLabs. She matched part of the DNA found in semen to a profile in GEDmatch. That profile belonged to an aunt from Downs and overlapses his for about 23%. She sent her finding to Alaska State Police and noted that she called it a tip. “I would not expect that anyone would ever be arrested based on this work alone,” Moore said. She did testify in March 2019 before a Grand Jury. Downs was then charged.
What was discussed today brings up again the problems with forensic genealogy. I wrote about that here and here. In short: privacy. Downs did not give permission to have his DNA compared to profiles in GEDmatch. Did his aunt give permission to have hers used for investigative purposes? One of the defense’s motions is to have the results of “third-party DNA” e.g. without his client’s permission, tossed. Parabon Nanolabs did not require a search warrant from Alaska State Police. The privacy issue needs to be addressed and preferably outlined in federal regulation to ensure epople’s rights are the same across the USA.
“Next month, Superior Court Judge Thomas Temple is expected to hear testimony about whether alternative suspects and gun evidence should be allowed at trial.” That will be of interest to me. Should the DNA be tossed, is there any other hard evidence to tie Downs to the crime scene and Sophie Sergie? Were all other suspects eliminated?
I am also curious to hear more about a psychological profile of Sophie Sergie’s killer and whether that matches Downs.
Last, Parabon has used DNA for phenotyping in other cases. An example is here. After testing a sample for DNA, the lab can tell within a certain percentage of confidence what characteristics they found: hair color, eye color, skin tone, the shape of the face, ancestry, and even the level of face freckling. These confidence statements give police a visual of what the DNA bearer most likely looked like. On top of that, it can help police eliminate people as suspects. Was that done here as well and if so, does it match Downs?
To be continued.