TrueAllele solves uninterpretable DNA in mother and daughter double homicide

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Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Kevin James Foley

Mark W. Perlin, "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Kevin James Foley", Promega's Twenty Third International Symposium on Human Identification, Nashville, TN, 17-Oct-2012.


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Blairsville dentist Dr. John Yelenic was murdered in his home, about an hour east of Pittsburgh, PA. Dr. Yelenic, who was living alone at the time, had exsanguinated onto his living room floor. On the coffee table, splattered with his blood, was the unsigned divorce document from his estranged wife, Michelle. She was living with her boyfriend, Pennsylvania state trooper Kevin Foley.

John Yelenic's fingernails had DNA that tied trooper Foley to the crime, with a match statistic of 13,000. Prior to Mr. Foley's February 2008 preliminary hearing, his defense lawyer Richard Galloway said that the DNA did not rule out other suspects, because there was a one in 13,000 chance it came from someone else. Moreover, said his lawyer, DNA often identifies suspects to the exclusion of billions or trillions of others.

Cybergenetics put the electronic DNA mixture data into its TrueAllele machine, asking the computer to solve the problem, and help identify the unknown contributor. The computer worked on our questions over a weekend. On Monday morning, I reviewed the results and phoned prosecutor Anthony Krastek with the TrueAllele answer. The DNA under Dr. Yelenic's fingernails matched Kevin Foley with a statistic in the hundreds of billions. Further calculations would later refine this number to 189 billion.

Commonwealth v. Foley is a landmark case in the history of DNA evidence. For the first time, an advanced statistical computing method for interpreting DNA mixtures was:

  1. used as evidence for a criminal case
  2. admitted into evidence after admissibility challenge
  3. introduced as evidence in a trial
  4. upheld as reliable evidence by an appellate court
  5. established as a statewide precedent

Dr. John Yelenic was brutally and tragically murdered, but the trial that convicted his killer bequeathed to society a powerful truth-seeking technology for bringing criminals to justice.