Prince George's County receives grant to reopen decades-old cold cases

Prince George's County will soon be tapping into new DNA technology that will help crack decades-old cold cases. 

It's one of 10 counties in the country to receive a $470,000 grant from the Department of Justice to reopen cold cases dating back as far as 1979.

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Law enforcement typically relies on the FBI's DNA index system for DNA samples, but now with this new technology they can compare a suspect's DNA with samples publicly available on some genealogy websites.

"What it does is it assists with building a family tree of possible individuals related to the suspect DNA. Once that tree is built out, then police will use their normal investigative tools, in terms of interviews and witnesses to develop suspects and hopefully make arrests. So being able to provide closure and justice, means everything for my office," said Prince George's County's State's Attorney Aisha Braveboy. 

Right now, there are 600 cold cases in the county with unmatched suspect DNA –– 120 are murder cases and 360 are sexual assaults.

The same technology helped investigators catch a notorious serial killer, Joseph Diangelo, known as the Golden State Killer in California who had been in hiding for decades.

"With the Golden State Killer, the same type of forensic genealogy test used in that case will be the exact technology used here in Prince George's county, so we're really excited that we'll be able to close some very important cases here. We really believe this will produce a level of success here," said Braveboy.  

The lab work costs $2,000 per sample, so only some of the cold cases in the county will be able to be worked on based on the allocated grant money. 

There have been criticisms using this method with some saying it's a violation of privacy.

The grant is up in three years, but depending on its success, Braveboy says they'll look for alternative streams of revenue for the program.