First time familial DNA search leads to arrest


Greene County News

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine joined authorities with the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office, Cleveland Police Department, Elyria Police Department, and the FBI to announce the arrest of a man believed to be a serial predator of children in Northeast Ohio.

Justin Christian, 29, was arrested Friday in Lorain in connection with the abduction and sexual assault of a 6-year-old Cleveland girl in May. Law enforcement officials say Christian is also connected to an attempted abduction of a 10-year-old Elyria girl in February.

This case involves a new tool – a familial DNA search – at the Attorney General’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI).

“When I learned that a predator was breaking into homes to snatch children from their beds, I wanted to immediately launch this new testing in Ohio, which we had been studying and validating for some time,” said Attorney General DeWine. “This is a first for BCI and a first for Ohio.”

A familial DNA search aims to identify someone with a genetic near-match to the person who actually committed a crime, whether that’s a brother, father, or son.

Attorney General DeWine authorized BCI to start researching familial DNA searches in 2012. Software was purchased and validated. Then BCI developed a 12-page protocol, which outlines the cases that can be considered for familial DNA searches. The very time-consuming process will be limited to the most serious unsolved crimes or serial cases with a public safety component and cases in which all other leads have been exhausted.

“We had a child rapist who would break into homes to steal children. When all leads were exhausted, I called Mike DeWine,” said Cuyahoga County Prosecuting Attorney Timothy J. McGinty. “Familial DNA will only be used in the most serious crimes. Without it, this case would not be solved.”

If BCI can identify a potential familial DNA match, then BCI criminal analysts help authorities identify the person who might have committed the crime. That information is then shared with detectives on the case, who will do additional work before determining if they can make an arrest.

Familial DNA searches are done in 10 other states: California, Colorado, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Florida, Michigan, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Story courtesy of Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.

Story courtesy of Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office.