• Orlando homicide detective uses commercial DNA website to solve murders

    By: Alexa Lorenzo , Katlyn Brieskorn

    Updated:

    ORLANDO, Fla. - An Orlando homicide detective got a judge to sign a warrant so he could search a commercial DNA website.

    It granted the detective access to the site's entire data base and many are calling it the first of its kind.

    This is the second Detective Michael Fields used the site without having to get a warrant or fill out any paper work.


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    The commercial DNA site GEDmatch gave him what he needed for his homicide investigation back in 2018.

    The site changed its policy in May of this year and decided it would not easily release information to law enforcement agencies, the type of information that previously had helped Fields crack a decade-old homicide case.

    “It was sitting in the file and we didn’t have a match,” said Fields.

    The case went cold. The DNA sample from the 2001 slaying of UCF student Christine Frank led police no-where.

    More than 15 years later, Filed said he turned to commercial DNA sites for help.

    Fields first tried with Ancestry.com and 23 and me, then he finally looked into GEDmatch, who gave him what he needed.

    “When I got the results back I was floored,” Fields said.

    When detectives ran the DNA sample from the crime scene, the data base linked it to three people believed to be distant cousins of the killer.

    Detectives were able to track down their suspect and make an arrest.

    But now, when he wanted to use the same site in a different case, Fields learned GEDmatch had changed its privacy policy, but he got around it.

    “I just applied the same thing we’ve been doing for years to this new thing,” Fields said.

    He wrote up a search warrant of more than 50 pages.

    “Since it was the first search warrant ever written against a genealogy website, I made sure every 'i' was dotted, every 't' was crossed,” Fields said.

    A judge signed it and GEDmatch responded within 24 hours, letting Fields push aside those privacy settings and search the website's data base of about 1.5 million people. 

    He wasn’t able to provide a lot of detail about the case, but he said the DNA data did generate some leads.

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