NORTHEAST OHIO — The Athens serial rapist terrorized women for 10 years in this college town in southeast Ohio. He was finally caught and sent to prison last year, thanks to powerful forensic tools used by DNA experts who helped crack the case.
The same group that assisted in that investigation -- Parabon NanoLabs of Reston, Virginia -- is also using new DNA testing and analysis to solve an undisclosed crime in Geauga County.
"There is an active investigation involving that case," said Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz.
Parabon has cracked 13 cold cases in only five months.
"It was only earlier this year that we introduced Genetic Genealogy and that's been a real game changer," said Steven Armentrout, Founder and CEO of Parabon.
With the help of high-speed computer technology, Parabon tries to match DNA of an unknown person of interest to a million people who voluntarily share their DNA on a public online database called Gedmatch. Genetic genealogists eventually narrow the list of matches that could be as distant as third cousins.
"I think genetic genealogy has really turned the page in the chapter of forensic investigations," Armentrout said.
Parabon won't discuss pending cases, but Channel 3 News learned they're working on one out of Geauga County, where Flaiz has made cracking cold cases a priority for the prosecutor's office.
"This technology may enable us to solve a crime that we otherwise would have not been able to solve," he said.
Flaiz said Parabon got some DNA hits in the case, which he refuses to discuss for fear it might jeopardize the criminal investigation. But sheriff deputies are now chasing leads that could narrow the list of suspects.
Parabon's cutting-edge technology goes well beyond any techniques used by law enforcement to solve crimes.The company says it finds matches in about 60 percent of the cases it's asked to investigate.
"We're going to be solving cases left and right and we have been," said Ellen McRae Greytak, Director of Bioinformatics at Parabon.
Genetic genealogy gave police the break they needed to identify accused Golden State Killer Joseph James DeAngelo. The former cop is charged with terrorizing communities in California, committing at least 13 murders and more than 50 rapes. A DNA sample from a crime scene matched that of a distant relative who had uploaded their DNA to Gedmatch.
"It's abundantly clear that this is a new frontier in criminal investigations," Armentrout said.