In situations of missing and unidentified people as well as cold case violent crimes, DNA evidence might be crucial to the inquiry. Finding investigative leads requires using the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to examine DNA profiles; however, these searches may not always provide conclusive matches. FGG (forensic genetic genealogy), a method that combines conventional genealogical research with DNA analysis, can be used by forensic science service providers (FSSPs) to provide leads when a search does not yield a CODIS match.
In this piece, we are going to talk about how Police used genealogy and DNA evidence to solve Bastian and Welch’s Unsolved case but before going into details of the case a quick recap on DNA is necessary.
Deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, is a component of nearly all living organisms. For the development and maintenance of new cells inside an organism, DNA functions as a code. It is present in practically all human cells. A very little portion of our DNA is also present in the mitochondria as mitochondrial DNA, but the majority of it is located in the cell’s nucleus where it is known as nuclear DNA.
DNA can be properly collected and analyzed to help identify the guilty and clear the name of the innocent. Over the years, DNA has undergone advancements to improve its dependability, help solve crimes, and free innocent individuals. The ability to identify DNA samples from hair, bones, skin, and tissue as well as minute amounts of blood and other bodily fluids has progressed over time.
Now what is the mean of Forensic Genealogy? “forensic genealogy” is used to refer to genealogical investigation, evaluation, and reporting in situations with potential consequences, frequently involving living people.
Jennifer Bastian did not return home following a bicycle ride at Point Defiance Park in Tacoma, Washington, on August 4, 1986. A preliminary search yielded no results for the 13-year-old girl. Authorities discovered Bastian’s body around three weeks later following a 911 call from a jogger who had noticed a bad smell emanating from a heavily forested portion of the park,
Bastian was killed after being sexually raped and strangled. According to homicide detectives, she was slain by the same individual who killed another adolescent girl months earlier. Michelle Welch had vanished on March 26, 1986, and her body was found in Tacoma’s Puget Park. The 12-year-old suffered from physical and sexual abuse. She died as a result of a throat cut.
Investigators first identified a probable suspect in both killings, but that hypothesis was abandoned after detectives re-analyzed the bikini Bastian was wearing the day she disappeared. Male DNA was detected at the crime lab, but it wasn’t the same as the male DNA discovered at the Welch murder scene. Both cases fell cold for over four decades.
Eventually, Tacoma Police Department Detective Lindsey Wade was able to reduce the list of potential suspects in Bastian’s case with the help of the FBI and a genealogist. Police detained Robert Dwane Washburn in May 2018 and put him under arrest on murder charges. Washburn, a Eureka, Illinois native who resided in Tacoma around the period of both killings, was on Wade’s suspect list because he had called in a tip in the Welch case shortly after she was disappeared. The DNA sample recovered on Bastian’s bikini matched the one that Washburn voluntarily gave detectives a year ago. He pled guilty to first-degree murder and received a 27-year jail term in 2019. Gary Hartman, Welch’s murderer, was sentenced to more than 26 years in jail in March 2022 after pleading guilty to raping and killing the 12-year-old. Police used genealogy and DNA evidence to solve Bastian and Welch’s unsolved case.