Relatives’ DNA Leads To Arrest — For a 1976 Double Murder

“You gotta be kidding me,” said a Wisconsin man, when police arrested his 82-year-old next-door neighbor “old Ray” — the guy who would occasionally come over to fix his lawnmower.

An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press:
Ray Vannieuwenhoven was his next-door neighbor — a helpful, 82-year-old handyman with a gravelly voice and a loud, distinctive laugh, the kind of guy who always waved from his car. The widower and father of five grown children had lived quietly for two decades among the 800 residents of Lakewood, a northern Wisconsin town surrounded by forests and small lakes. Now authorities were saying this man was a cold-blooded killer. They had used genetic genealogy to crack a cold case that stretched back well into the 20th century — a double murder 25 miles southwest of Lakewood. For nearly 43 years, Vannieuwenoven had lived in plain sight, yet outside detectives’ radar….

DNA profiling in the ’90s brought new hope, but detectives got no matches… Last year, detectives contacted Virginia-based Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company whose work with genetic genealogy analysis has helped police identify 55 suspects in cold cases nationwide since May 2018, according to the company. Parabon uploads DNA from crime scenes to GEDmatch, a free, public genealogy database with about 1.2 million profiles, all voluntarily submitted by people who’ve used consumer genealogy sites like Ancestry.com and 23andMe. California law enforcement used GEDmatch to capture the Golden State Killer last year by finding distant relatives and reverse-engineering his family tree.

Parabon’s experts completed Vannieuwenhoven’s family tree in late December. They’d found his parents, who had lived in the Green Bay area. Now detectives needed DNA samples from Vannieuwenhoven and his three brothers. Two were ruled out with DNA samples collected from one brother’s trash and another’s used coffee cup. On March 6, two sheriff’s deputies knocked on Vannieuwenhoven’s door, pretending they wanted him to fill out a brief survey on area-policing. They told him to put the survey in an envelope and seal it with his tongue.

Detectives didn’t need to visit the fourth brother. Eight days later, Vannieuwenhoven was in custody.

Vannieuwenhoven has pleaded not guilty.

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