TrueAllele solves uninterpretable DNA in mother and daughter double homicide

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May 2017 Newsletter


May 2017
On November 3, 2015, Michael Pittman was shot to death outside his New Hampshire apartment. A gun was collected and swabbed for DNA. The crime lab analyzed the five-person mixture, but could not interpret the data. TrueAllele® analysis on the same data produced informative results, connecting the gun to Adrien Stillwell. During trial, Chief Scientist Dr. Mark Perlin explained the scientific results. The jury found Stillwell guilty of first-degree murder and all other counts.
Assistant Attorney General Jason Casey said Dr. Perlin's "testimony was obviously an important part of our case. The jury - although admittedly overwhelmed by the science/math - was impressed by [his] testimony." Stillwell was sentenced to life in prison. 

On April 15, 2016, Joshua Huber shot and killed two people in his Etna, PA apartment. He claimed self-defense, but the Commonwealth charged first-degree murder. The evidence included a bloody wall and fingernail swabs of both victims. TrueAllele analysis showed that Huber was associated with both. The defense retained Cybergenetics to testify, and successfully argued that the DNA indicated a struggle. Initially deadlocked, the jury  acquitted   Huber.
"We are very happy with the outcome of the trial," said Huber's defense attorney Bob Andrews. "Special thanks to TrueAllele. Dr. Mark Perlin's expertise provided DNA analysis and testimony that was vital in our defense." 

Guilty Pleas
On November 28, 2015, Margaret Recasens was fatally stabbed near a pizza shop in Carrick, PA. Mixed DNA was found on a knife and a shoe. TrueAllele computing placed the victim and her ex-boyfriend Dejuan Windom together on these items. Allegheny County Assistant District Attorney Aaron McKendry secured a guilty plea. The defense stipulated to all DNA results, including Cybergenetics TrueAllele report. Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani convicted the 26-year-old defendant of third-degree murder. Windom faces up to 40 years in prison. 

Drugs and a firearm were found in a Montgomery County, PA home associated with heroin deals. A local lab developed DNA data from the drug packets and gun, but was unable make comparisons with the suspects. On the same data, TrueAllele computing connected the items with Rasheed Farrelle, with some match statistics in the trillions. Farrelle entered a guilty plea. "The defendant would not have pled guilty but for the work you were able to do," Assistant District Attorney Laura Bradbury told Cybergenetics. 

In December 2015, James Ruesch was found shot to death in his Cleveland, OH home. TrueAllele found a match between the victim's rear pants pocket and suspect Shannon Oehlstrom was 166 thousand times more probable than coincidence. Oehlstrom pleaded guilty to the crime. She received a sentence of 9-18 years for involuntary manslaughter and aggravated burglary. 

Pretrial Agreement
At the Marine Corps Base in Quantico, VA, an officer was accused of sexually assaulting an unconscious subordinate. Using its own TrueAllele® system, the Virginia Department of Forensic Science statistically connected the man with the victim's underwear. Cybergenetics assisted the prosecution pro bono to prepare for a Daubert challenge, providing and explaining extensive scientific documentation on TrueAllele's reliability.

TrueAllele science continues to withstand admissibility challenges. Defendant Harold Houston lost his Daubert challenge in Jefferson Parish, LA. Defendant Shannon Oehlstrom pleaded guilty and dropped her Daubert challenge in Cleveland, OH. A U.S. Marine Corps defendant made a pretrial agreement and did not proceed with his Daubert challenge in military court.
The Beaufort County Sheriff's Office crime laboratory independently conducted a successful Daubert hearing in South Carolina on their reported TrueAllele results. 

Cybergenetics outreach informs the public about how better forensic computing makes society safer. Dr. Perlin spoke to the Friendship Village senior community about solving minor crime to help prevent major crime. His scientific presentation at the Pathology Informatics Summit explained how modern computing overcomes forensic DNA limitations.  

Three Cybergenetics scientists each gave a half hour talk at the Mid-Atlantic Association of Forensic Scientists (MAAFS) meeting. William Allan spoke about how the automated TrueAllele workflow helps DNA analysts and crime laboratory efficiency. Dr. David Bauer discussed his recent TrueAllele validation study on ten-person DNA mixtures. Jennifer Hornyak described how TrueAllele provides exclusionary, as well as inclusionary, DNA match statistics. Talk slides and handouts are available at the website. 

On June 2, Dr. Perlin is speaking about "Detecting and denying DNA evidence: a history of forensic identification" at Duquesne University's Pioneers of Forensic Science conference. His one-hour lecture will examine the consequences of unscientific mixture interpretation, and the impact of bad DNA information on criminal justice.  

Becca Byers
Communication Specialist

Twitter: @cybgen
LinkedIn: Cybergenetics
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