Man Charged in 14-Year-Old Cold Case After Submitting DNA to Genealogy Database

Earlier this month, a genealogy database helped Tampa, Florida police identify and arrest a suspect in a 14-year-old cold case. Fox 13 reported the suspect, Jared Vaughn, was arrested and charged with sexual battery for an alleged assault that took place in 2007 at the Gasparilla Pirate Festival.

According to police, via Fox 13, a University of Tampa student was walking back from the festival to her dorm when the suspect—Vaughn—offered to assist her. When they arrived at her residence, Vaughan allegedly proceeded to rape her but fled the scene when her roommate returned.

Though DNA evidence was collected at the time, police could not find any matches in their system. As a result, the case went cold. However, Insider reported in 2020, police revisited the case and used genealogy databases including GEDMatch and FamilyTree to find potential matches. Thousands of people submit their DNA to genealogy databases in the hopes of learning more about their ancestry, including Vaughn. But for law enforcement to access a person's DNA, they must opt-in.

"Our success depends on info found in public genealogy databases, where participants—and this is important—must opt-in for law enforcement matches," said FDLE Special Agent in Charge Mark Brutnell according to Fox 13.

Police traveled to Vaughn, who now lives in West Virginia, to conduct another DNA test. According to both outlets, the results showed he was a one-in-700-billion match. After receiving the results, Vaughn turned himself in and was charged with sexual battery.

TPD assistant chief Ruben Delgado told Fox 13: "It has taken 14 years for resolution in this case, but it's something that was important to us and was important to the victim, to get some closure in this case."

Delgado continued to say the squad that worked on this case was initially created to, in partnership with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), revisit cold cases and determine how technology can be used to solve them.

"The detectives worked the case just like it was a brand-new case," he said according to the NZ Herald.

Genealogy testing has proved instrumental in solving cold cases across the country. Last year, California police were able to identify and arrest the person responsible for killing a disabled teenager in 1981. "Genetic genealogy has revolutionized law enforcement's ability to solve violent crime: to identify the guilty and exonerate the innocent," district attorney Anne Marie Schubert told Newsweek at the time.

Genealogy testing
Thanks to a genealogy database, Tampa, Florida police identified and arrested a suspect in a 14-year-old cold case. picture alliance / Contributor/Getty