Take a Deep Dive into Forensic Genetic Genealogy in our Upcoming Three-Part Webinar Series

Tara Luther, Promega

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In 2018, a new tool for crime solving rose to prominence as the notorious Golden State Killer was finally unmasked. For years, Joseph James DeAngelo remained under the radar until investigators in the case partnered with genealogist Barbara Rae-Venter. Using genome-wide testing to generate a comprehensive DNA profile, the team turned to a genetic genealogy website where users came to learn more about their roots.

Since 2018, over 200 suspect cases have publicly announced the use of forensic genetic genealogy (FGG) for lead generation. Much has been learned on how to best work cases using FGG since 2018 and guidelines have been established and published by the Department of Justice, the Scientific Working Group on DNA Analysis Methods (SWGDAM), and the Sacramento District Attorney’s office. Yet there are questions that still remain as the path forward for FGG solidifies.

What types of cases are best suited for FGG?

What will labs and prosecutors face when taking these cases to court?

What technologies are best for generating a DNA profile suitable for FGG or how do you choose a genealogist to work with?

To address some of these questions, we’ve recruited some expert speakers to present ISHI’s first webinar series. This three-part webinar series will be free to viewers and will help provide some additional foundation on FGG before we gather for ISHI 33.

The series begins on April 13th with Steve Kramer and Steve Busch of Indago Solutions. Steve Busch was an FBI Special Agent for 19 years, during which he co-founded the FBI’s forensic genetic genealogy team and was an architect of the FBI’s National FGG program. Previously Mr. Busch worked investigative assignments including counter terrorism and complex financial crimes. He also honed his leadership skills as a SWAT Sniper Team Leader, routinely solving multifaceted problems in a high threat environment. He is departing the FBI pre-retirement to develop market disrupting Automated Identity Resolution software. A former Civil Engineer, he has a B.S. in Engineering from Cornell University and was a captain on Cornell's football team.

Steve Kramer was the FBI in-house counsel for 20 years, where he was responsible for legal matters in the FBI's criminal and national security investigations and oversaw the FBI's investigative techniques and strategies. Previously Mr. Kramer worked as a federal prosecutor, and deputy district attorney, where he prosecuted homicide cases, corporate fraud cases and national security cases. After assembling and leading the team of investigators that solved the notorious Golden State Killer case, he finished his career at the FBI as the cofounder of the FBI’s forensic genetic genealogy team. Mr. Kramer has an accounting/finance degree from the University of Arizona, a JD from California Western School of Law, and an MBA from the UCLA.

On April 13th, Mr. Busch and Mr. Kramer will be discussing the origins of FGG, best practices for law enforcement, probable cause and legal considerations, and common myths surrounding FGG. They will also be available for a live Q&A following their session, so be sure to have your questions ready.

The next webinar will be presented on May 4th by Rachel Oefelein of DNA Labs International. Ms. Oefelein is currently the Director of Research and Innovation, Quality Assurance Manager, and a Senior DNA Analyst at DNA Labs International (DLI). Additionally, she is a PhD candidate with Griffith University located in Brisbane, Australia. She received her MSc in Forensic Science from the University of Strathclyde, and her BS in Criminal Justice, with a Forensic Science Minor, from Loyola University of New Orleans. Ms. Oefelein worked at the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) for nearly five years and previously interned at the Instytut Ekspertyz Sądowych, the Forensic Laboratory in Krakow, Poland. Since joining DNA Labs International in 2014, she has testified in eleven Florida counties, five states and U.S. Territories, and five countries as an expert witness for both the prosecution and the defense in misdemeanor and felony trials, as well as Williams, Daubert, and Arthur hearings.

Ms. Oefelein will address how to generate a profile suitable for genealogy upload, the bridge between generating genealogy data and genealogy research, confirming investigative leads with STR comparison, and expert witness testimony as it pertains to cases that utilized FGG. Ms. Oefelein will also be available for a Q&A session following her presentation.

Finally, on May 25th, Danny Hellwig of Intermountain Forensics will present on methodologies you should know when considering FGG. Mr. Hellwig holds an M.S. in Forensic Science and is a 16+ year veteran of both Public and Private Crime Forensic DNA Laboratories. He has served as a DNA analyst, technical leader and in executive management of Forensic DNA laboratories over that time. He has provided training to hundreds of Forensic DNA labs and conferences on a variety of different topics. Armed with a black belt certification in Lean/Six Sigma process improvement and extensive experience in both quality and operational leadership, he provides executive direction and oversees the quality system of the Intermountain Forensics laboratory.

FGG is responsible for a paradigm shift in the forensic DNA world. The forensic DNA scientist needs to be well versed in the pros and cons of the laboratory instrumentation, processes and profiles that are used in the generation of genetic genealogy results. These are often technologies that we are unfamiliar with. In his presentation, Mr. Hellwig will assist and supplement the forensic DNA community’s knowledge of the processes of targeted SNP assays, micro-array and the multitude of whole genome sequencing options available.

Details on how to register for this webinar series will be coming soon on our website (www.ishinews.com). If you’d prefer to receive email communication regarding ISHI and the upcoming webinar series, we invite you to sign up for our email list on page 13 of this magazine.