Oregon State Medical Examiner Closes Dozens of Cases
with Parabon® Genetic Genealogy

Remains Had Been Unidentified For As Long As 52 Years

30 Aug 2022


International Society of Forensic Genetics (ISFG 2022) Poster

Reston, VA — At the International Society of Forensic Genetics (ISFG) meeting in Washington, DC, this week, investigators from the Oregon State Medical Examiner (OSME) and Parabon NanoLabs will report on their successful collaboration to investigate and close unidentified remains cases.

"Without Parabon, I don't think we could have predicted just how many of our cases we would be able to close in only a few years.

I hope other states will follow our lead."
Dr. Nici Vance, Oregon State Forensic Anthropologist

With remains recovered as far back as 1970, it was sometimes challenging to get DNA at all. DNA was extracted from the available material, and 43 samples were sent to Parabon for analysis. Data on millions of genetic variants was captured from each sample and used to predict the ancestry and physical characteristics of each individual ("DNA phenotyping"). Learn More About Snapshot DNA Analysis »

"Unidentified remains cases can be especially difficult because the DNA is often quite degraded from being in the environment for so long," said Dr. Ellen Greytak, Parabon's Director of Bioinformatics and lead author of the ISFG poster. "Fortunately, we've developed laboratory and bioinformatic techniques that can generate high-quality data from most forensic samples. I think the forensic genetics community is going to be very excited to learn about this project."

The datasets were then uploaded to the two public genetic genealogy databases that allow law enforcement usage, GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA. A Parabon genetic genealogist was assigned to each case. Of the 43 cases, 39 yielded sufficiently close database matches to proceed with investigative genetic genealogy (IGG). Of those cases, 21 have resulted in a confirmed identification and an additional 9 are awaiting identity confirmation. Detectives are actively following up on leads generated by the IGG investigation in the remaining 9 cases. See All Published Police Investigations »

One case that stood out to CeCe Moore, Parabon's Chief Genetic Genealogist, was the unidentified remains of a teenage boy recovered in 1971. "I was able to construct a very complex family tree involving many distant matches that led to the family of Winston "Wint" Maxey. He had left Idaho at age 16 to hitchhike to Oregon and had not been seen since."

Kinship testing of his living sister confirmed the young man's identity after more than 50 years; detectives are now seeking help from the public to figure out what happened to him.

"Some of the oldest and most complex unidentified human remains cases in Oregon were resolved with this collaboration," said Dr. Nici Vance, State Forensic Anthropologist. She continued, "I don't think we could have predicted just how many of our cases we would be able to close in only a few years. We couldn't have resolved any of these cases without Parabon, and I hope other states will follow our lead." Read More Snapshot Success Stories »

(This project was supported by Award No. 2018-DN-BX-0199, awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this release of information are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Bureau of Justice Assistance.)

About Parabon NanoLabs, Inc.

Parabon NanoLabs is a vertically integrated DNA technology company that develops next-generation forensic and therapeutic products by leveraging the enormous power of DNA. Staffed by a uniquely qualified team of scientists and technologists whose expertise ranges from bioinformatics and chemistry to computer science and pharmacology, Parabon is bringing to market revolutionary new products and services made possible by recent advances in DNA sequencing, analysis and manufacturing technologies.

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