Saturday, February 09, 2019

The DNA and What It means

At long last, we have been given details about the DNA evidence detectives have gathered in the Amy Mihaljevic case. Here's what you should know.

- Three hairs were found on or near Amy's body when it was recovered in February 1990. One on her body. One on her sweatpants. One on her underwear.
- Each hair is from a different person. This could mean these hairs were transferred to Amy's body from the car she was taken in or from the crime scene (the house of the suspect) she was taken to. For instance, these hairs could be from a relative or friend of the suspect that wound up in their car and then on Amy's body, the way a hair from Amy's dog ended up on the curtain used to wrap her body. Or... it could mean that more than one person was involved in the crime. That perhaps we are dealing with a small group of men who participated in the abduction and assault of Amy.
- The DNA they have recovered so far is degraded, offering only small snippets of a genetic profile. Think of a DNA profile as being 1,000-rung ladder. What they have right now is a snapshot of four or five rungs. Not enough to connect to a specific person (yet) but enough to rule people out.
- They still have the hairs and are waiting for technology to develop where they feel comfortable resubmitting the hairs for further testing. Another test would destroy their sample so it has to be good. They get one more chance.

One thing that means a lot to forensic genealogists are haplogroups. These are groups of people who share a common ancestor. When people look for relatives online, they use these haplogroups to figure out who they are related to.

The haplogroups of the three hairs are:

1.  Hair from body - H2a2a
2.  Hair from sweatpants - H1cf
3.  Hair from panties - H1a1
These are all from white Europeans. 


Now, hair #2 is unusual and may actually help police narrow down their list of suspects further. Because that haplogroup - H1cf - is seen in populations who also have a higher risk of developing schizophrenia or major depressive disorders. That sounds like our guy, maybe.

So how about it, armchair genealogists? Is there more to derive from this limited information at this point?