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DNA Is Solving Dozens of Cold Cases. Sometimes It’s Too Late for Justice.

Category: Science,Science & Tech

“It is not closure,” she said. “Closure is when the door is shut and you can move forward and say everything is behind you.”

For those who have spent decades absorbing a family member’s violent death, the sudden discovery of a deceased suspect can recast a long period of yearning for justice. The Bernhardt couple’s remaining family members said in a statement that they were relieved by a “degree” of closure, but needed time to process the information.

“When I thought about it, it doesn’t matter,” Ms. Reich said later in the interview. “It doesn’t change the outcome.”

As in the other high-profile cold cases, investigators in the Billings murders used GEDmatch, an online genealogy database that traces distant relatives, with DNA samples submitted to Parabon NanoLabs, a forensic consulting company in Virginia that specializes in genetic genealogy.

Parabon said on Monday that since last May, the company has identified 47 suspects in cold cases. Nine of them, including Mr. Caldwell in the Billings case, were dead, never to face justice for crimes committed in states including Texas, California, Florida, Arkansas, Oregon and Maryland.

One of them was Kenneth Earl Day, whom investigators in Montgomery County, Md., named last month as a suspect in the rape of a 52-year-old woman in 1989, and in the rape and murder of another woman, Le Bich-Thuy, 42, in 1994. But Mr. Day, a carpenter, had died in 2017 at age 52, they said.

“I think it was relief,” Sgt. Chris Homrock, an investigator with the Montgomery County Police Department’s cold case section, said in an interview on Monday, describing how the daughter of the 52-year-old woman, who has since died, had been partly relieved that a suspect was found. “But she was sad her mom passed away without knowing who did this to her,” he said.

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