Investigative genetic genealogy is becoming a popular topic in the forensic community for its use in solving previously “unsolvable” cold cases for law enforcement. The United States, unfortunately, has very high rates of infanticides–or the murder of a child younger than four years of age. Because these children are so young and have likely not attended school, no one could know that they exist and they often are not reported missing, because of the high likelihood of their parents being the perpetrators. When one of these children’s remains are found, they often go unidentified and their murderers are free to live their lives. With the use of investigative genetic genealogy, these children’s parents can be identified and investigators can find out what happened even decades after the child’s remains were discovered.
During her poster presentation at ISHI 32, Student Ambassador Olivia McCarter, will use a case from Jackson County Sheriff’s Department as an example of an infanticide case. She will also include infanticide statistics for the U.S. and more details on why these cases often go unsolved.
Briefly describe your work/area of interest.
I am a trained investigative genetic genealogist. I work with various law enforcement agencies/coroner’s offices around North America to identify perpetrators of unsolved crimes and unidentified remains. While doing this work, I have found many infanticide cases around the Mississippi/Alabama area (where I live), with most of them being female and being thrown into bodies of water to drown. Through researching some of these cases, I realized that infanticide and neonaticide cases are the cases that I am most passionate about, because these children were completely innocent and helpless. I have made it a personal mission to identify the parents of all of these children and allow the victims to receive justice.
Please describe the background for this project.
My project is on infanticides (the killing of a young child) and how the use of investigative genetic genealogy is one of the only ways to identify the child’s parents. Because the child is too young to be enrolled in school and possibly no one knows that they exist, they often remain nameless and their perpetrators get away with their murder. Because their bodies are so small, they are easier to hide. Through the use of investigative genetic genealogy, infanticide cases from all over North America are being solved and their killers are being put away for their crimes. My project focuses on why and how investigative genetic genealogy is one of the only ways to identify the parents of the child, with the use of examples of infanticide cases that I have personally worked on, including the case of Baby Jane II, a three to five week old infant found drowned in Pascagoula, Mississippi in June of 1988.
Can you describe the work that you performed?
Because many of my cases are kept secret due to being active homicide investigations, I am unable to share many case details, but the work I have performed on this project is being taken from personal experiences working as an intern at a genealogy company and independent work that I have performed by myself on infanticide cases.
Were there any key collaborators involved in your work?
Because a lot of my knowledge comes from my personal experience and knowledge on infanticide cases, this project was finished completely independently by myself. However, I would have not have had those experiences without my internship at Redgrave Research Forensic Services. I also follow infanticide case solves in the media and I see a lot from my close friend CeCe Moore from Parabon. A lot of my personal experience also comes from working closely with different agencies down here in Mississippi and Alabama. The nameless detectives and I have become quite close while working together on these cases and making sure justice is served.
How did you get interested in this work? Why did this particular project appeal?
I got interested in investigative genetic genealogy due to watching DNADoeProject and Parabon in the media. Those two companies really inspired me to try to do it as well. I was fresh out of high school when I started and believe that this is what I will do for the rest of my life. This project appealed to me because I became so passionate about children’s cases after working on the case of Alisha Heinrich, an eighteen-month old toddler killed fifteen minutes away from my home in Jackson County, Mississippi. I credit Alisha for giving me the strength and passion to solve as many children’s cases as possible. She is forever with me.
Can you summarize the impact of your work for the audience (ISHI attendees and some general forensic enthusiasts)? How might this advance the field?
Through my work, many infanticide cases that are not in any databases are receiving attention and are beginning genealogical research to identify the perpetrators of their murders. Most of these cases are down south in Mississippi and Alabama. Because I live in the area, these cases receive highest priority from me. I hope that bringing awareness about these cases allows other agencies and investigative genetic genealogists to research infanticide cases in their areas and work on them. A lot of these cases are forgotten. It is our jobs as forensic scientists to never let these children be forgotten and make sure that they receive justice.
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