Just Solving Cold Cases with Forensic Genetic Genealogy

Just Solving Cold Cases with Forensic Genetic Genealogy

Original Release Date: August 26, 2022

In episode four of our Case Studies: Part 1 mini season, Just Science sat down with Leighton D'Antoni, the Assistant District Attorney in Dallas County, Texas, to discuss how forensic genetic genealogy was used as an investigative tool to help solve a series of violent cold cases.   

In the 1980s, several violent sexual assaults occurred in Dallas County, Texas and Shreveport, Louisiana. These cases were all linked by a foreign DNA profile; however, no suspect was found, and the cases went cold. In 2020, the investigations were re-opened, and forensic genetic genealogy was used to help identify a common suspect in all six cases. Listen along as Leighton discusses the journey to bring justice to survivors almost 40 years later and the prospects of using forensic genetic genealogy as a tool to help solve previously unsolvable cases.  

This episode of Just Science is funded by the National Institute of Justice’s Forensic Technology Center of Excellence (Award #: 15PNIJ-21-GK-02192-MUMU).

Some content in this podcast may be considered sensitive and may evoke emotional responses, or may not be appropriate for younger audiences. 

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Episode Citation

McKay, J., & D'Antoni, L. (2022, August 26). Just Science. Just Solving Cold Cases with Forensic Genetic Genealogy. [Audio podcast episode]. The Forensic Technology Center of Excellence.

Guest Biography

Leighton D'Antoni has spent the last 7 years as the Chief for the Dallas County District Attorney’s (DA) Sexual Assault Kit Initiative (SAKI) specializing in cold case sexual assault homicides, sexual assaults and serial rapists identified through the testing of untested sexual assault kits. The Dallas County DA’s SAKI Team has identified over 75 serial offenders accounting for cases involving over 300 victims. Leighton has taken 12 serial offenders to trial, each resulting in convictions. In 2019, Leighton tried the longest delayed capital murder trial in Texas history of 30 years. The defendant was convicted and received a life sentence. In the summer of 2020, Leighton spearheaded a multiple agency task force, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Dallas Police Department, in the investigation of a prolific cold case serial rapist from the early 1980’s. Using forensic genetic genealogy (FGG), a suspect was identified and arrested. The suspect later confessed to committing over 30 home invasion aggravated sexual assaults. It was the first time in Dallas County history, a suspect was identified, arrested, and convicted using FGG. Leighton serves on the State of Texas Governor’s Sexual Assault Survivors’ Task Force, establishing a survivor-centered, trauma-informed response to sexual violence. Leighton represents SAKI nationally as an expert instructor for cold cases, serial killers, serial rapists, and DNA for the Department of Justice Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), and the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit. He is Department of Justice-BJA certified in forensic genetic genealogy training. Leighton serves as a faculty member for the State Bar of Texas Advanced Criminal Law Conference and will be featured in A&E’s new series Interrogation Raw (Fall 2022). 

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this podcast episode are those of the presenter(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of Justice.

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