A 14-year-old rape case that hit “dead ends” in 2007 has been cracked after officials zeroed in on the suspect after scouring through genealogy database websites.
Jared T Vaughn, 44, voluntarily surrendered himself on 16 June in a sexual battery case from Tampa after investigators zeroed down to a probability of “1 in 700 billion” of him being the suspect, according to the police.
“It has taken 14 years for resolution in this case, but it is something that was important for us…The victim now can have some closure in her life,” said assistant police chief Ruben Delgado said in a press conference last week.
The incident happened in 2007 when a student of the University of Tampa was walking back to her dorm after attending the Gasparilla parade. She told investigators the man offered to walk her to the dorm as she was intoxicated. The suspect allegedly raped her and disappeared, WTVT reported last week.
“We ran into a few dead ends in the case back in 2007,” officer Delgado said. “The detectives worked the case just like it was brand-new case with the help of FDLE and the science we were able to develop a suspect.”
In March 2020, the investigators again decided to open the after police solved some criminal cases using the new technology and genetic genealogy testing.
Tampa police aligned with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to find matches with the DNA sample of the suspect on DNA databases on GED Match and FamilyTree, two services which are often used by people to research into their ancestry.
The DNA found at the crime scene matched that of Mr Vaughn and detectives obtained a DNA search warrant to get a new sample from him. They travelled up to West Virginia, where , Mr Vaughn now lives.
Mark Brutnell, a special agent in charge with FDLE in the case, said that the method is only used when all the other leads have been exhausted.
“Every other investigative lead has to be exhausted before we do this type of process,” he said. “If it wasn’t for this technology, I’m not sure we’d be here today.”
“Our success depends on information found in public genealogy databases, where participants must, and this is important, they must opt in for law enforcement matching,” he added.
Detectives also used “old-school police work” such as conducting interviews and surveillance, police said, to tie the clues together.
The availability of genealogy data has been questioned by experts over the ethical issues of privacy. States like Maryland have even banned police from using the database from solving minor cases.