Blue Line

Police use advanced DNA tech to build image of mom in cold case of newborn

May 31, 2019  By The Canadian Press

Police in Thunder Bay, Ont., say an advanced form of DNA profiling has allowed them to release an image of the mother of a newborn baby who died after being stuffed into a garbage bag 25 years ago.

Det. Jason Rybak says the mother is considered the primary person of interest in the death of the infant, who may have been anywhere from hours to days old when he was found in early March 1994.

Police were never able to identify the boy, who died of hypothermia and came to be known only as Baby Doe.

Rybak says police have turned to an emerging technology known as DNA phenotyping to develop an image of the baby’s mother.

He says police turned to phenotyping after the technology played a major role in closing a cold case homicide in Sudbury, Ont., last year.

Rybak says police are confident the image produced from DNA samples will take them a step closer to identifying Baby Doe and resolving the mystery surrounding his death.

“Solving the case of Baby Doe is no longer a question of ‘if,’ it is now a matter of ‘when,”’ Rybak said at a news conference Thursday. “We know there are people out there right now who know what happened, but for whatever reason have chosen to remain silent for 25 years. The time for silence is over.”

DNA phenotyping, an approach gaining prominence in criminal investigations both in Canada and the United States, relies on genetic samples to determine characteristics such as skin, hair and eye colour, face shape and freckling.

Those details are then used to create a composite image that can be used to identify people police have previously not been able to name.

The image believed to depict Baby Doe’s mother shows what the woman may have looked like at age 25 with a body mass index of 22, Rybak said, adding the image cannot predict the impact of environmental factors or aesthetic choices such as hair styles.

Phenotyping played a direct role in resolving a cold case in Sudbury when police enlisted the technology to solve the 1998 slaying of Renee Sweeney.

The 23-year-old musician studying at Laurentian University was found stabbed more than 30 times in the back of the adult video store where she was working a shift.

Months after police released an image derived from phenotyping and 20 years after the homicide, investigators arrested a man who had been an 18-year-old high school student at the time of Sweeney’s death.

Robert Steven (Steve) Wright is charged with first-degree murder in that case.

– Michelle McQuigge

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2019

Print this page


Stories continue below