Scientist Connects DNA Dots To Help Capture Suspected Serial Rapist

Oct 1, 2019, 8:37 PM | Updated: Jul 15, 2023, 11:02 am

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — The scientist credited with helping crack open a 28-year-old cold case talked about how she used a family tree and DNA to track down a suspected serial rapist.
For almost three decades, 69-year-old Mark Burns lived in the shadows while detectives were busy investigating at least nine alleged rapes in Utah and Wyoming during the 1990s and early 2000s.
Police investigators had a mystery on their hands, and all they had was a DNA profile from the unknown attacker.
That would soon change, thanks to genetic genealogist Dr. Barbara Rae-Venter.
Rae-Venter had quite the resume, having been recognized for her work in the “Golden State Killer” case. She was also named one of Times Magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2019.
Officials said more than 60 arrests of suspected murderers and rapists across the nation have been the result of investigative genetic genealogy.
“Most of the cases have some little twists and turns in them,” Rae-Venter said. Those twists and turns led to a relative of their suspect.
She said detectives went back to Burns’s house and looked through his garbage, gathering what she called “trash DNA.” She said from there, she used what was gathered by detectives and compared it to the crime scene DNA and she had a match.
“I knew I was looking for a half-brother,” Rae-Venter said. “It’s one in a quadrillion — they’ve got the right guy.”
Rae-Venter said helping police find a suspect after all these years is a satisfying part of her job.
“It’s pretty exciting actually,” she said. “It’s a real test of skill. It’s pretty cool when you do identify the right person, and it sort of validates what you’ve been doing.”

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Scientist Connects DNA Dots To Help Capture Suspected Serial Rapist