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Orlando Police Solve Cold Case Using Family-Uploaded DNA

Orlando Police Department Detectives have solved a 17 year old cold case using genetic genealogy. Photo: Orlando Police Department

Police have arrested a suspect in connection with a 2001 Orlando murder case. Detectives used DNA evidence uploaded to the internet by the suspect’s relatives.

OPD uploaded DNA found at the crime scene of 25 year old Christine Franke’s murder 17 years ago to a site called GEDMatch -- a public database where users can upload DNA profiles to help track genealogy.

Recently, law enforcement tapped the service to help solve cold cases. The so-called Golden State Killer, Joseph DeAngelo, was the first suspect arrested using the technique. Police said the public DNA database has helped identify suspects in more than a dozen cases.

“We have increased the potential now to identify the individuals who have committed senseless crimes like this,” said Orlando police chief Orlando Rolon. He said the department plans to use the technique on other cold cases.

The suspect in Franke’s case was arrested last week. 38 year old Benjamin Lee Holmes has been charged with first degree murder and robbery. Three relatives uploaded their DNA to the website, which led detectives to the suspect.

Rolon said the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will work with other agencies in the state. “This is an evolving technology that obviously has been proven to work. FDLE is going to spearhead this process to put it on steroids moving forward.”

He said there is a cost involved and hopes the FDLE will help other departments across the state pay for the technology.

Brendan covers space news for WMFE, everything from rocket launches to the latest scientific discoveries in our universe. He hosts WMFE's weekly radio show and podcast "Are We There Yet?" which explores human space exploration.