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posted by mrpg on Wednesday July 18 2018, @03:33PM   Printer-friendly
from the gotta-attac dept.

Murder suspect due in U.S. court after DNA cracks open 1988 case

A 59-year-old Indiana man will be formally charged on Thursday with the 1988 murder of an eight-year-old girl after the decades-old cold case was cracked open by DNA evidence linked to a genealogical website, authorities said on Tuesday.

John Miller of Grabill, Indiana, was arrested in nearby Fort Wayne on Sunday after DNA evidence and records on publicly accessible genealogical websites helped investigators track him down. Investigators followed a pattern similar to that used to track down the "Golden State Killer" in California earlier this year.

Miller on Monday was preliminarily charged with murder, child molestation and confinement of someone under 14 years old, 30 years after eight-year-old April Tinsley was found dead in a ditch. He has been ordered held without bond.

If you don't hand over your DNA, you want child murderers to frolic in freedom.

Related: DNA From Genealogy Site Led to Capture of Golden State Killer Suspect
GEDmatch: "What If It Was Called Police Genealogy?"
DNA Collected from Golden State Killer Suspect's Car, Leading to Arrest
Another Alleged Murderer Shaken Out of the Family Tree
'Martyr of the A10': DNA Leads to France Arrests Over 1987 Murder
DNA Methylation Can Reveal Information About Criminal Suspects


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by VLM on Wednesday July 18 2018, @04:49PM (14 children)

    by VLM (445) on Wednesday July 18 2018, @04:49PM (#708870)

    But an actual DNA comparison could prove his innocence. The test works both ways. It has two possible outcomes.

    Confusing the tech with the system.

    The tech is incredibly reliable. The system continues not to be. We're at the point where its almost infinitely more likely if DNA is found at the scene, then someone is tampering with evidence or pencil whipping lab results or just outright corrupt rather than the test statistically being faulty.

    There's also interesting chronological issues. Its trivial for me to provide an alibi that I didn't kill someone thousands of miles from my house yesterday, business clients and coworkers and family contacts and meetings and CCTV cam footage and cell phone records and stuff make it near impossible to set me up using evidence tampering alone. Now I know that I was busy in high school as a young kid when the victim died and a week later back in '88 it would have been trivial to prove I was in class when the victim was killed, but there's no way in hell I (or probably anyone else) could possibly provide any alibi 30 years later. My history teacher is almost certainly dead or senile or won't remember I was in class on one specific day when the crime happened, etc.

    One long term effect is likely to be some reform of statute of limitations laws. Right now, if (no, when...) someone tampers with evidence, its impossible to provide an alibi or documentation, so conviction is guaranteed. It would be difficult to impossible to set me up for a murder that happened last week, but a murder three decades ago is not possible to defend against, for anyone.

    Maybe the 2020s and 2030s equivalent of "swatting" people will be gathering DNA sample from someone (hair, blood, whatevs) then planting it on some cold case evidence, run the tampered evidence thru DNA on a hunch, and ta da instant conviction because its impossible to defend against. For example, it could trivially be proven in a court of law that I shot president JFK; my only hope is convincing the jury that I look healthy enough and my birth certificate look real enough that I wasn't alive when JFK was shot (which is true, I was negative a couple years old at that time; I guess someone could frame my mom as a SWAT).

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  • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Wednesday July 18 2018, @05:00PM (1 child)

    by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday July 18 2018, @05:00PM (#708874) Journal

    I guess I could be framed for JFK's murder. I was 7 years old. They thought that shot would have been difficult for an "expert" shooter? Well, fact is, I was just playing around with my daddy's gun, and it fired by accident. It wasn't an assassination, just an accident.

    But, seriously - whoever pulled the trigger(s) on that day, is probably dead and gone now.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18 2018, @07:50PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 18 2018, @07:50PM (#708966)

      E. Howard Hunt is indeed dead. George H.W. Bush is still alive though.

  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday July 18 2018, @08:33PM (7 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday July 18 2018, @08:33PM (#708980) Journal

    Squeaking of the system being faulty in the face of real evidence. I remember stories on Tech Dirt a few years back about (some poe-dunk) court(s) saying (effectively) that video evidence is less reliable than the police officer's report and sworn testiphony.

    My point about the test having two possible outcomes: If someone wants to withhold their DNA and isn't obligated to provide it, that is not evidence of their guilt of some crime. In fact, their DNA could prove they are innocent. But you can't forcibly take their DNA if state law requires you to burn them at the stake for withholding their DNA for comparison.

    What is the reason for statute of limitations laws? If someone committed a crime 30 years ago, wasn't it still a crime? Isn't there still a victim? (unless the crime was masturbation or something equally horrible)

    --
    The lower I set my standards the more accomplishments I have.
    • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Wednesday July 18 2018, @09:36PM (2 children)

      by captain normal (2205) on Wednesday July 18 2018, @09:36PM (#709015)

      The LEOs don't have to force you to give your DNA. If you or any close retaliative sent DNA to a genetic database (a public record base), that could narrow down the search quite a bit. The all they have to do is watch you till you toss a cigarette but or coffee cup or come by early on garbage day and grab the contents of your trash to extract DNA. Then you lose buddy. Actually this is what happened in this case.

      " The arrest affidavit said that police, using outside labs, compared DNA evidence with information on genealogical websites, which narrowed the search to Miller and his brother.

      Earlier this month, police began to watch Miller, and took three used condoms from his trash, the affidavit said." ---TFA

      IANAL but as far as I know there no statute of limitation for murder and kidnapping in this country.

      --
      Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts"- --Daniel Patrick Moynihan--
    • (Score: 4, Informative) by sjames on Wednesday July 18 2018, @09:48PM (3 children)

      by sjames (2882) on Wednesday July 18 2018, @09:48PM (#709021) Journal

      There are multiple reasons for a statute of limitations.

      One is that after so much time, it is impossible to mount a defense. Pick a random non-special day 30 years ago. Do you remember for a fact if you were at work or not? Does anyone else? Could you even find any people who might remember if you were or were not at work that day?

      As to why that matters, you made a common but critical mistake in your post. DNA can NOT generally prove guilt. I know for a fact my DNA can be found in places I have never been to. I know that because I have sent mail before. There is little doubt my dna was on each and every letter and package I have ever sent. That guy that bumped into me this morning on the elevator? My DNA is on him. I did construction the summer after high school as a sort of change of pace. Since minor cuts are common, you will find my blood in several homes in the area, even inside the walls.

      It would be unjust to expect me today to recall where I was (that is not one of those homes) 30 years ago, there is only my word that I don't recall being in one of those homes after it was completed.

      The other reason is based on the claim that our penal system is justified by being rehabilitative in nature. That is, it is claimed that the purpose is so that people don't do it again (Hence the frequent use of "Department of Corrections", "correctional facility", etc). If the person has gone 30 years without committing another crime, they have arguably reformed already. Alternatively, if the only crime you can link a person to is that old, In the case of a singular crime, there's also that if the one and only crime you can link to a person is that long ago, and you have no other evidence of criminal activity, its a fair bet that you have the wrong person.

      • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Thursday July 19 2018, @02:11AM (2 children)

        by captain normal (2205) on Thursday July 19 2018, @02:11AM (#709144)

        True, but did you leave your DNA on the undies of an underage girl by 30 years ago? I don't see how something like that could explained by innocent circumstance, do you?

        --
        Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts"- --Daniel Patrick Moynihan--
        • (Score: 2) by sjames on Thursday July 19 2018, @03:05AM

          by sjames (2882) on Thursday July 19 2018, @03:05AM (#709177) Journal

          No, but only because I had my own washer and dryer so I didn't need the laundromat.

          I can't say what the thousands of other people who are of no relation but share a number of alleles in common might have done.

        • (Score: 2) by hemocyanin on Thursday July 19 2018, @06:30AM

          by hemocyanin (186) on Thursday July 19 2018, @06:30AM (#709247) Journal

          A. No.
          B. Think back on who you were 30 years ago -- you are probably almost a different person.
          C. Looking over your shoulder for 30 years is itself, punishment.

  • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19 2018, @12:33AM (3 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19 2018, @12:33AM (#709102)

    Now I know that I was busy in high school as a young kid when the victim died and a week later back in '88 it would have been trivial to prove I was in class when the victim was killed, but there's no way in hell I (or probably anyone else) could possibly provide any alibi 30 years later. My history teacher is almost certainly dead or senile or won't remember I was in class on one specific day when the crime happened, etc.

    Perhaps you could. 20 years ago I was helping write software for schools, part of which enabled teachers to record each day for each student whether or not they were present. This was because state funding was tied to attendance -- every day, or even part of a day, that a student was in school, meant the school qualified for more money. (What, you thought the school cared so much about the students that they wanted to see their smiling faces each day? No, it's just money.) I don't know if every state does that, but at least one did.

    That data, even down to the individual student, was sent to the state education agency. For each school, every month. There might still be an archive of that data around somewhere.

    Even before computerization, there were paper forms -- because we in part got the software's requirements by reviewing the existing paper documents. That might still be around somewhere, on microfiche, or perhaps sucked into an imaging system by now (I've worked on imaging systems, too; lots of formerly microfiched documents are digitized now).

    So if you ever ARE accused of something from when you were back in school, dig for the documentation. It just might save your ass.

    • (Score: 2) by sjames on Thursday July 19 2018, @01:03AM (2 children)

      by sjames (2882) on Thursday July 19 2018, @01:03AM (#709119) Journal

      The secret to "your permanent record": If it didn't burn in a fire, get erased to make room for newer data, recorded in a format nobody knows anymore, or get destroyed in a basement flood, nobody knows where it is.

      • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Thursday July 19 2018, @02:29AM (1 child)

        by captain normal (2205) on Thursday July 19 2018, @02:29AM (#709158)

        Unless of course you are named Archibald Buttle and the authorities are after Archibald Tuttle because a computer glitch spit out your name instead of Tuttle.
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aeBq5H3O2I [youtube.com]

        --
        Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts"- --Daniel Patrick Moynihan--
        • (Score: 2) by captain normal on Thursday July 19 2018, @02:36AM

          by captain normal (2205) on Thursday July 19 2018, @02:36AM (#709163)

          Hint... the song is a clue.

          --
          Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts"- --Daniel Patrick Moynihan--