Genetic genealogy is an effective method that uses DNA testing to trace and verify ancestral connections between individuals.
By comparing DNA sequences and analyzing genetic markers, genetic genealogy can help identify shared ancestry and reveal previously unknown familial connections. It can also be used to trace ancestry, identify potential genetic health risks, and provide insight into human migrations and population history.
For instance, someone commits a crime but his DNA isn’t on record. Authorities, through that DNA, can sometimes find that person’s family tree and subsequently locate living family members and zero in on a suspect.
For example, if a woman was raped by a man 30 years ago, obviously all of the living females with similar DNA matches would be eliminated as suspects as would anyone under 40. Eventually, the pool of suspects is narrowed considerably until the culprit is found.
This recent case is an example of the power of this technology in bringing justice to victims and closing cases that would have otherwise been left unsolved.
Last week, Kurt Rillema, aged 51, was taken into custody after being linked to two violent rapes that had gone unsolved for more than two decades. This news was reported by Click On Detroit.
On 6th September 1999, there was a devastating rape incident at the Twin Lakes Golf Club in Oakland Township, Michigan. A suspect had entered an area that was prohibited for employees and assaulted a 22-year-old female working at the food parlor, leaving behind his genetic material.
After nine months hundreds of miles away, a 19-year-old jogger was attacked by a stranger in the vicinity of a Penn State University golf course. The attack resulted in the rape of the victim. The suspect initially asked for directions but when the woman tried to continue jogging, he dragged her to a wooded area and violently assaulted her, according to Law&Crime.
DNA was uploaded to the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) by authorities for both cases. However, it wasn’t until 2004 that the database connected the two and made a match between them.
After years of not making any progress in their investigations, the Penn State Police Department and Oakland County Sheriff’s Office sent DNA from the cold cases to Parabon Nanolabs in Virginia. This action sparked renewed hope for justice to be served.
Both departments found out that the lab traced the family history all the way back to the 1700s and, thus, narrowed down their suspect list to Mr. Rillema and his two brothers. After a thorough investigation, Mr. Rillema emerged as the main suspect. His close proximity to the Twin Lakes Golf Course at the time of the first crime and his presence at Penn State, when the second rape occurred, further fueled suspicion against him.
After surveillance, law enforcement was able to recover a styrofoam coffee cup from Mr. Rillema, and the DNA found on it matched that of the crime scenes – eventually connecting him to it.
Mr. Rillema, a businessman previously residing in West Bloomfield Township, Michigan, has been indicted for first and second-degree felony criminal sexual conduct offenses for the rape case of 1999. He could receive up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
It is anticipated that in Pennsylvania, he will be accused of rape, lewd behavior, and aggravated indecent assault which may result in a prison term of up to 20 years.
Mr. Rillema is currently held without bond at the Oakland County Jail. His hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, 27 April.
“Victims of violent crimes, like rape, can never forget that terrible moment,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said in a statement, per WHIO7 News. “It is incumbent on us to never give up on finding perpetrators of these crimes and bring them to justice. With new technology and investigative capabilities, sometimes we can close cases that have been open for years if not decades. That is what happened in this case. We will never give up.”
Law enforcement has identified the suspect as an ardent golfer and is calling on those with any knowledge of the case to make it known.