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DNA breakthrough in 36-year old Michigan slayings

Categories Biometrics News  |  Law Enforcement  |  Schools

It’s a real “Cold Case”. After 36 years, the new DNA techniques have provided a breakthrough on the killings of four children in Oakland County, Michigan.

The killings happened between 1976 and 1977 to four unfortunate children who were kidnapped and found dead: Mark Stebbens, 12, Jill Robinson, 12, Kristine Mihelich, 10 and Timothy King, 11.

With new DNA technology available now, the DNA unit at the FBI in Quantico tested human hairs gathered from both the bodies of Stebbens and King and found a mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) profile link which proved that the two crimes were connected. Further DNA testing revealed that the same mtDNA profile was found in a 1966 Pontiac Bonneville owned by 70-year-old Archibald “Ed” Sloan who is serving a life sentence for two counts of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree.

When Sloan was tested for a DNA match, the result showed he did not share the same DNA profile with the boys and the hairs found in his car. This led to a conclusion that someone else was driving his car.

Jessica R. Cooper, Oakland County Prosecutor said: “This is the first piece of evidence that actually links any of the victims together. It was always believed that these two killings were linked to the same person; however that was an assumption based on the similarities in the crime.”

However, mtDNA results are not absolute.

According to Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky, forensic scientist at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, the mtDNA link is still significant, and “people have been convicted on mtDNA evidence alone.” Sharing the mtDNA profile is enough to cast suspicion on anyone.

Nuclear, autosomal DNA would give absolute identification just like in CSI or in the movies. However, the hairs gathered in 1976 or 1977 are not suitable for autosomal DNA testing.

Kobilinsky explained: “”With nuclear, autosomal DNA … you’re dealing with absolute identification. It’s like a fingerprint, unique to each person except twins. Mitochondrial DNA is completely different. If you have a hair from a person, that person’s siblings and all maternal relatives would share that mitochondrial profile. It’s not unique to a particular person.”

Nevertheless, the new evidence provided a breakthrough in years of investigation.

“We are excited about this new opportunity,” said Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, “This haunts every police officer who was around then and is around today.”

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