The Missing Piece

Mary Catherine Edwards

A video collaboration between ISHI and Othram featuring the multi-disciplinary teams behind the cases

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For years, victims were listed on cold case files in law enforcement evidence boxes. While never forgotten, limitations in forensic science prevented their cases from being closed. Families waited decades for answers and justice while their killers remained unidentified.

In 2018, a new tool for crime solving rose to prominence as the notorious Golden State Killer was finally unmasked; forensic genetic genealogy. To begin, investigators upload their unknown DNA profile to the site, which generates a list of the closest genetic matches, based on how many centimorgans (cM) of DNA are shared with the unknown person. Next, investigators will begin to build back the unknown person's family tree until a common ancestor is uncovered. Then, they will build the family trees forward, identifying every descendent possible, using traditional genealogy techniques. Once the trees have been fully built out, investigators look to identify candidate persons that might match the unknown person. Once a person of interest has been identified, new DNA can be collected to compare to the original forensic sample.

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In January 1995, the parents of Mary Catherine Edwards, a "well-loved" Beaumont, Texas school teacher, went to her home to check on her. Mary lived alone, had not responded to calls and her parents were concerned. Upon arrival, they found she had been drowned in her bathroom. Beaumont detectives later determined that the Mary had been sexually assaulted before her murder. Through the years, investigators worked the case and all available leads. DNA from an unknown male was found at the crime scene and a STR profile was produced, however it returned no matches in a CODIS search. Traditional forensic DNA testing was used to exclude many people over the years and eventually all leads were exhausted and the case went cold.

In 2020, the Texas Rangers and Beaumont PD renewed efforts on the case and offered a $6000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for Mary Catherine Edwards' sexual assault and murder. In addition, the Texas Rangers Unsolved Crimes Investigation Program and Beaumont Police Department teamed up with Othram to leverage advanced DNA testing and forensic genetic genealogy to help uncover new investigative leads that would identify the unknown person from the crime scene. There was remaining evidence from the 1995 crime and several items were sent to Othram, where lab scientists eventually developed a DNA extract that was suitable for advanced DNA testing. Processing the DNA, a mixture of an unknown male and the victim, the Othram team leveraged Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing® to produce an enhanced DNA profile that could be used for forensic genetic genealogy.

The Texas Rangers Unsolved Crimes Investigation Program, working with Beaumont PD, lead the investigative effort leveraging family trees and public records to identify the unknown male from the crime scene. Eventually, the unknown man was identified as Clayton Foreman. Although he was not a person of interest in the original investigation, he knew the victim from high school.

Clayton had been residing in Reynoldsburg, Ohio. With the assistance of the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office an arrest warrant was obtained. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit flew investigators to Reynoldsburg, Ohio where Foreman was arrested and later extradited to Jefferson County.

On Wednesday, September 22, 2021, Foreman was indicted for the Capital Murder of Mary Catherine Edwards.

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