FLORIDA — Lori Napolitano, chief of forensic services with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, is proud of the strides her genetic genealogy program has made in its first year. They have identified suspects in four cold cases. 

FDLE stated it never sees anyone's actual genetic information

This is being used to identify suspects in cold cases

"Genetic genealogy is just a new type of lead. It will generate for you persons of interest as suspects," explained Napolitano. 

Her team has identified suspects in four cold cases. They used this technique recently to tie a suspect to serial killings in Daytona Beach from over a decade ago. Sean Beckmann, a geneticist at Stetson, claims this tool came about recently after discoveries made with the Human Genome Project. 

"It goes from looking for a needle in a haystack to looking for a needle in a much tinier haystack to be able to narrow down who the suspect is," said Beckmann. 

Investigators take DNA collected at a crime scene and compare it to online databases full of DNA samples, looking for people who match it, making them family.

"So we are no longer limiting our pool to known criminals, to individuals that have a prior conviction. It's now anyone who has contributed their information to this," said Beckmann. "And so now we are no longer looking, can we match just our suspect, but can we find someone that shares genetic information with this unknown sample and that can help us narrow down our suspect pool and trace it back to who might actually be responsible."

The FDLE is only able to match against people who have opted to allow them to on GEDmatch and Family Tree​. Ancestry.com and 23andMe have strict policies against that, however.

"The only way you get your DNA in there is to test with them. Nobody, including the public, can put their DNA in there so there is not even a mechanism for law enforcement to be able to add a crime scene DNA profile to it," and Napolitano. 

That means they are extremely limited. However, given the success they have had, they hope more people will allow them to match against their DNA and get more criminals off the street.

"This is new, so things are fluid and changing and as it grows and as we come up with more balance and people feel more comfortable then at that time please upload," said Napolitano. 

The FDLE stated it never see anyone's actual genetic information, all it sees is the percentage that person matches to the sample the FDLE is trying to identify.