Managing a Familial Search

Monday September 14th, 2020 // 11:05 am - 11:36 am

Virginia Vincent, a 57 year-old realtor, was found brutally murdered in her home in unincorporated Danville, CA on September 20, 1985. With no witnesses and no motive, police struggled to identify the killer. Evidence was worked up and detectives submitted known reference samples (blood and 10-prints), however, all were excluded. The case went cold. In 2002, thanks to the NIJ Cold Case Grant, key evidence was analyzed using STR analysis and an unknown male profile sat in CODIS with no Hit for over 15 years: a perfect candidate for Familial searching.


By 2016, meetings occurred between detectives assigned to re-open the case and DNA staff at CCC SO. Options for re-examination and analysis using a multiplex system of additional evidence were discussed and Lab requests were submitted. Detectives submitted the Familial search request to DOJ in November 2017.  In June 2018, the BFS/DOJ presented the results to Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office. It turns out that in 1997 (12 years after the Vincent murder), the prime candidate from the Fam search committed suicide when he was accused of a brutal sexual assault of a minor. Unfortunately, no evidence from that 1997 incident was available for comparison purposes. No surreptitious sample could be collected, however, the prime candidate’s body was buried in a cemetery in a nearby county. By September of 2018, CCC SO homicide detectives secured a search warrant for a body exhumation. Grave diggers, BFS, DOJ, SO and PD personnel were on deck. A long bone was removed from his body (grave) and BFS/DOJ worked up the sample. The STR results were sent over to CoCo Lab for comparison to DNA evidence profile. The results confirmed Joey Lynn Ford as the source of the DNA.  This presentation will provide a Familial Search review with emphasis on managing the process and working with several different agencies for the good of the cause.


Private: Pamela Hofsass

Chief of Forensic Services Division, Contra Costa County Office of the Sheriff

Pamela Hofsass holds over 35 years of experience in law enforcement, having worked almost every assignment available; patrol, SWAT, Community Policing, Recruitment, Academy, Investigations in addition to the Forensic Services Division.

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