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Genetic genealogy leads to arrest in 34-year-old murder

New technologies are leading to the reopening of a Florida cold case from decades ago. In one case involving the murder of a 25-year-old woman in 1984, a man was arrested 35 years later due to DNA testing and the use of genetic genealogy. Pamela Cahanes was found murdered in the Orlando area only two days after her graduation from U.S. Navy basic training. She was found near an abandoned home in an unincorporated area of the state.

Police announced on March 14 that they had arrested a classmate of Cahanes from the Navy training center. He was charged with first-degree premeditated murder, according to the Seminole County Sheriff. Police said that the 59-year-old man knew Cahanes when they were both students. They said that DNA found at the scene linked the man to the crime, although he has reportedly denied any involvement in the murder. As in other cold cases, police used a technology called genetic genealogy to build a family tree of people showing a relation to the DNA found at the scene of the crime.

The technology uses DNA from people who voluntarily submit their genetic information to a database. It identifies potential family relationships to unidentified DNA found at crime scenes even decades before. This allows police to access much more DNA information than is typically found in their own databases. Over 36 people have been arrested due to genetic genealogy since April 2018.

Technology has led to increased clarity in many criminal cases, but it can also lead to injustice and confusion. Tests may be carried out incorrectly or they may not definitively point to the individual responsible for a murder, rape or other violent crime. People facing charges may turn to an Orlando, Florida, murder and violent charges attorney to contest the claims of police and prosecutors.

Source: ABC News, "DNA links Navy classmate to 1984 cold case murder of 25-year-old Pamela Cahanes: Officials", Emily Shapiro, 03/14/2019

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