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Baby April’s 28-year-old cold case solved with the help of genetic genealogy testing

Published: Dec. 18, 2020 at 10:38 PM CST
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MOLINE, Ill. (KWQC) - Baby April’s 28-year-old cold case has been solved thanks to a DNA match. 47-year-old Angela Renee Siebke’s DNA was matched within Parabon Nanolab’s database of over 1-million entries.

On April 11, 1992, a man walking his dog found the body of a full-term baby girl in a plastic bag floating along the bank of the Mississippi River in Moline. The Rock Island County Coroner identified the cause of death as suffocation asphyxiation and hypothermia. In December of 2014, the Rock Island County’s State’s Attorney filed a first-degree murder charge against an unknown woman’s DNA profile that was found at the scene, now being matched with Siebke’s.

CeCe Moore’s team at Parabon has helped solve about 140 cases in the last 2.5 years, about 1 case per week, “I think we’ve been able to help solve cases that otherwise would have gone unsolved, probably forever. And we want to get these solved in time for the families to have answers.”

Originally, Moore worked in phenotype offering, to help find out what a person might look like based on their DNA. Genetic genealogy testing changing in recent years, “when we were building it, we were building it for family history purposes. And then we started using it to help adoptees and other people of unknown parentage, to find their family members or biological family members. While we were doing that, it started becoming very obvious that this tool had much wider applications. And we started working on cases where law enforcement has been unable to solve those cases.”

Also helping solve cold cases like Baby April’s. Moore says that case is different in how much the community cared about the newborn girl, “the community really embraces these types of baby homicide cases. It really means a lot to the officers involved. The people who discovered the baby and the community as a whole who band together and put on a funeral for these babies and give them a name.”

With Siebke’s case, Moore says there were multiple DNA matches that worked together to narrow it down to just one immediate family, which she says isn’t very frequent. “When you’re working with really distant relatives, you often need multiple ones to see how all the pieces fit together. And these were really quite distant relatives. It took a fair amount of work and expertise to be able to narrow it down.”

The largest commercial DNA testing companies like 23andMe and Ancestry do not allow for law enforcement use. Moore says you must go through other websites to allow for law enforcement to crossmatch your DNA, like GEDMatch or Family Tree DNA. “This is a tool that absolutely relies on public support and participation. If we have public support, and the public agrees with what we’re doing, and they suddenly think this is for the greater good, and can perhaps, help make society a safer place, then we will end up being able to help solve 1000s of cases and not just cool cases, we can work in active cases too,” explains Moore.

Moore says about 30 million people have participated in direct consumer testing, but only about 1.5 million have uploaded their data to genetic genealogists. She hopes if 3 to 5 million people submit their DNA to help law enforcement, they wouldn’t just be able to solve cold cases, but also bring families answers in real-time.

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