How your DNA test could send a relative to jail


That morning the Idaho Falls Police Department was slow, i.e. average given the size of the city, punctuated with residents wandering about to inquire about a failed jury summons or hand over. old drugs. And then, in the space of about half an hour, dozens of people showed up. There were tweens and great-grandmothers, toddlers and adults just in their late 50s, a number of women looking alike and also – it was clear if you had studied the posters. stuck in the hallway – for “Angie Dodge, homicide victim, 6/13/1996.”

The consent debate has mistakenly assumed that it is a simple concept of privacy – a person making an individual choice about their exposure.

“There isn’t anyone in this town who doesn’t know the story of this case,” Police Chief Bryce Johnson told me. “He defined the police department. It’s part of his DNA. Eventually, the crowd walked out onto the street to watch Johnson take the pulpit at the city council premises, where he told the audience that the previous afternoon near the Oregon border agents had approached a 53-year-old man named Brian. Leigh Dripps Sr., asked him to come to the local police station to discuss and obtained a confession. Then Moore stepped in to explain the lengthy search process, detailing how Dripps – the missing seventh direct male descendant of the right couple – had eluded him; when she finally found him, she realized he had been Dodge’s neighbor in 1996.

It was the first time I’d seen Moore, and she seemed to conjure up, with her long double-helix curls, black pantsuit, and sleek rectangular glasses, a glamorous but identifiable detective in a televised proceeding. She spoke in clear paragraphs, with an unearthly ability to strike all her marks. (Moore racked up dozens of IMDb credits for playing herself.) After the conference ended, she navigated effortlessly among disparate parties including the police, justice reform activists, reporters, and the mother of ‘Angie Dodge, Carol, who she had been in contact with throughout her investigation. In an episode of “The Genetic Detective,” Moore drives around Idaho Falls with Carol and weaves his way through Dripps’ stacked family tree as Tom Cruise in “Minority Report”. With each successful arrest announced, with each prime-time mention, investigative genetic genealogy found new audiences, wider acceptance, and more opt-ins. The profiles of the victims also became more varied, no longer only white, bourgeois and female. Moore did not evangelize by argument, but by loving the work and appearing hypercompetent in doing it.

“What happened?” Karole Honas, the outspoken dean of the local ABC branch, asked the police during questions and answers. She meant that Dripps didn’t have any other serious legal issues. “Did he just go crazy over bananas?” Later, outside the police department, amid Mylar windmills and the last falling cheekbone petals, Moore told me that, yes, in his best guess, Honas was right: in those days that preceded the murder, Dripps’ first child was born and his wife had tried to leave him, and it seemed like something had just gone wrong in his head. Many of his cases look like this, with offenders committing a horrific offense and then staying broadly aligned, though there are a lot of assumptions about this analysis. Only a minority of violent crimes leave relevant DNA evidence behind, a problem that can be compounded by a broad knowledge of forensic science and how it can and cannot be evaded. Police noted that a suspect identified by genetic background had a three-month diary on a table, open to an article about Talbott’s arrest.

On a day like this in Idaho Falls, Moore seemed like a magician who could pull off any trick. In her last bloom, she had also cleared the name of Chris Tapp, who had served two decades for Angie’s murder when he had no DNA link to the crime. At the press conference, Tapp was full of hugs, handshakes and tears, and in two months he would be formally exonerated by a judge. “It’s the only unqualified joy I have experienced in law enforcement work,” Moore told me. “Everything else has been so – heavy. “

Two days later, GEDmatch has become virtually useless for Moore.

Following the arrest of Golden State Killer in 2018, the site warned users that police were uploading profiles and hastily implemented a policy limiting such use to homicide, sexual assault, and unauthorized bodies. identified. But weeks before Idaho Falls’ announcement, it emerged that one of the site’s founders-operators had, in a somewhat naive and grandiose way, made an exception for a Utah detective investigating a recent attempted murder. Moore was the one tasked with identifying the suspect (and did). Around the same time, it also emerged that FamilyTreeDNA, a mainstream site with more than two million users, had quietly allowed the FBI to upload suspicious profiles to its database for genetic and genealogical research.


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