PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Over the last 3 decades, the Eugene Police cold case squad has looked at numerous people suspected of being responsible for 3 murders between 1986-88. DNA was collected from all 3 scenes, connecting the murders of Geraldine Toohey, Gladys Hensley and Janice Dickinson to one individual.
Multiple suspects were eliminated through DNA examination. The serial killer was never caught.
“The biggest challenge is we have DNA in all 3 cases, but we don’t have a name to go with that DNA,” said Eugene Police Detective Jennifer Curry, “and that can be very frustrating.”
New technology might be able to fix that. DNA Phenotype Snapshots, a technology that provides sketches and information on skin color, ancestry and even freckles, is being used by the department for the first time. They hope it can provide some answers in case #86-9010.
“We feel we have good evidence in this case and we have DNA in all 3 cases, but we need investigative leads so we can attached a person to those leads,” Curry said.
The phenotype reports are extensive. They provide near matches for race, skin color, eye color and hair color with a percentage of confidence in each match.
Ellen Greytak with Parabon Nano Labs, the creates of the DNA Snapshots, said the technology has been around for 3 years.
“This allows investigators to eliminate suspects who don’t match this prediction, then within people who could match and then prioritize a suspect,” Greytak said.
The technology has also been successful. According to Greytak, 20% of the 150 cases they’ve worked on have been solved, including a case that was 25 years old.
“Within a few months of our information they went back through their suspect list and went to anybody they didn’t have DNA from and who matched our prediction and they were able to find their person,” Greytak said.
Now, the Eugene Police Department hopes the technology can solve this case — one that’s nearly 23 years old and still aging.
“This is a big deal,” Curry said. “This isn’t something I’ve seen in my career, and I’ve been her 21 years. This is a first for us.
“I hope it generates the leads we need because I feel like we’re close to solving these murder. And the victims deserve that and their families deserve that.”