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Loudoun Sheriff’s Office uses advances in DNA technology to gain cold case information

Using DNA evidence from this investigation, Loudoun detectives sought the services of Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company in Virginia that provides a DNA phenotyping service, called Snapshot. Photo Courtesy/LCSO
The Loudoun County Sheriff's Office is taking advantage of advances in DNA technology to help solve a nearly 30-year-old sexual assault case.

Using DNA evidence from this investigation, detectives sought the services of Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company in Virginia that provides a DNA phenotyping service, called Snapshot, which predicts the physical appearance and ancestry of a suspect from unidentified DNA evidence. Snapshot produced a composite image of the suspect with these trait predictions that LCSO detectives hope will assist with their investigation.

The investigation stems from the abduction and sexual assault of a 9-year-old Sterling girl on June 26, 1987. Around 4 a.m., the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office responded to the 200 Block of East Poplar Road where the victim reported that an unidentified man broke into her home, abducted her and sexually assaulted her.

The evidence collected at the time of the assault and advancements in DNA technology have enabled detectives to develop a composite profile of the suspect. Snapshot predictions are made for ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling and face shape. By combining these attributes of appearance, Snapshot composites were produced that depict what the suspect may have looked like at 25 years of age and at 50 years of age.

It is important to note that Snapshot composites are scientific approximations of appearance based on DNA, and are not likely to be exact replicas of appearance.

At the time of the assault, the victim described the suspect as a white man with a thin build, 6-feet-3-inches tall, with brown hair and a mustache.

Anyone with any information is asked to contact Detective Dave Canham of the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Unit at 703-777-0475. Callers wishing to remain anonymous are asked to call Loudoun Crime Solvers at 703-777-1919.

Callers who provide information to Crime Solvers that leads to an arrest and indictment could be eligible for a cash reward of up to $1,000.


Anything would help old cases like this, and I hope it does lead to some new leads.  I’m guessing that the DNA that is on file has been run through databases for criminals arrested in the state and nationally?  The article didn’t mention if that was done or is done on a regular basis.

This is a new tool but it has been around for a couple of years and used by agencies nationally and internationally.  I’m not sure I’ve heard if this has actually assisted in any other cases in making an arrest.  Maybe Loudoun can be first.  That would certainly help the victim and victims family.

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