LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — Lake County Sheriff’s Office investigators have been trying since 2007 to catch a man who sexually assaulted a 65-year-old woman in her home.
Despite having the man’s DNA, they didn’t have a good description of the suspect until now.
Advances in technology have allowed scientists to determine from the DNA what the suspect probably looked like as a young adult, around age 25.
The percentages you see at the bottom of the flyer show the amount of certainty Parabon Snapshot Advanced DNA Services scientists have on the man’s traits based on his DNA profile.
Investigators collected that DNA from the scene of the sexual assault near Tavares and Leesburg in 2007, but the phenotyping process has only been used with law enforcement for a few years.
“To prey on a 65-year-old woman, living alone, and not yet be caught, it's very frustrating,” Lake County Sgt. Tamara Dale said. “And to know we have his DNA profile, no matches, it’s very frustrating.”
The composite released by deputies details the traits scientists determined the man has based on his DNA profile. It is not a photograph, but a prediction.
"It's like a genetic witness, an objective description of a person who was absolutely at that crime scene, because their DNA was there," Dr. Ellen Greytak said. Greytak is the director of bioinformatics for Parabon Snapshot Advanced DNA Services.
Greytak explained that your DNA can predict hair, skin and eye colors and even bone structures to create probable composites like this for law enforcement.
Since launching the service five years ago, the company has helped investigators solve cases across the country.
“The whole idea of using DNA to generate a new investigative lead, that’s a really new idea in forensics,” Greytak said.
For Dale, who oversees Lake County’s 39 cold cases, it means giving the now-77-year-old victim in the rape some new hope. It also provides a clue to warn the public about someone Dale says is a danger to society.
“For the first time in 12 years, we are able to look at this person very closely, see what he would've looked like,” Dale said.
This use of DNA phenotyping has also given faces to unidentified victims of crimes. In Lake County, investigators hope to use the same process for a likely homicide victim.
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