Forensic genealogy has helped identify a woman whose body was found in a dumpster in Georgia more than 35 years ago, authorities have confirmed.
Chong Un Kim, who was 26 at the time of her death, was found “wrapped with plastic and duct tape” in a dumpster in Jenkins County, Georgia, on Feb. 14, 1988, per a statement from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
In a separate statement published on Facebook, the GBI stated, “There is still work to be done to solve the mystery surrounding Kim’s death, and we will work relentlessly to bring justice and closure to her family.”
Kim’s cause of death was asphyxiation, although it is unclear whether authorities are investigating her death as a homicide. The original case has not yet been updated on the GBI’s database of unidentified remains.
The remains were identified after the GBI turned to Othram, a company specializing in forensic genetic technology, to create a genealogical profile of the body earlier this year. Othram was able to genotype Kim’s DNA and identify her living relatives.
Kim moved to Hinesville, Georgia, from Korea in 1981, per the GBI. Kim’s family has been notified of her death, although they have not yet spoken publicly on the case.
What is forensic genealogy?
Forensic genetic genealogy, also called forensic genealogy, genetic genealogy and forensic genetic genealogical DNA analysis and searching, combines genetic testing with genealogical research to identify DNA found at crime scenes, per the Justice Department.
When police find DNA at a crime scene — either that of a victim or of a perpetrator — that evidence is often logged in CODIS, a nationwide database of DNA profiles gathered from law enforcement.
However, unless that person’s DNA has already been entered into CODIS because of a prior run-in with the law, the database will not provide a match. Additionally, if a DNA profile is incomplete, it is ineligible for entry into CODIS. This was the case with Chong Un Kim’s case, per the GBI.
Using forensic genealogy, investigators can create genetic profiles based on DNA and match them to distant relatives in online genetic databases like GEDmatch. Genealogists then map out family trees in order to find the identity of the person in question, according to IET.
How many murders have been solved with genetic genealogy?
This technology has helped identify hundreds of victims and perpetrators of crimes, according to Wired.
Several high-profile murders have even been solved using genetic genealogy, such as the Golden State Killer case, per NBC. In 2018, California law enforcement uploaded DNA found at several crime scenes from the 1970s to GEDmatch and found a match to a distant relative. Investigators then built a family tree and identified several suspects and eventually confirmed the identity of the killer: Joseph DeAngelo.
As genetic technology has developed over the years, law enforcement has been able to use it to help solve numerous cases, per The Associated Press. However, police cannot access private records on sites such as Ancestry or 23andMe, per KSL.
Anyone who wishes to contribute to forensic genealogy research can opt in to sharing their genetic information on sites such as GEDmatch.