New type of DNA testing could potentially identify suspects in criminal investigations

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- As the sexual assault investigation into the birth of a child to a woman patient in vegetative state at Hacienda Healthcare continues, Phoenix Police officials say experts will use DNA samples collected to try and identify the rapist.

However, a new type of DNA testing could potentially be another option, and currently, it is being used to help solve an unsolved murder case.

Phoenix Police detectives are hoping to revive and solve a 36-year-old cold case, in which they still do not know the identity of the murdered woman or the person who killed her. They recently submitted DNA from the victim to a company called Parabon that can figure out a person's race, family lineage, and even generate an image of unknown victims, or suspects.

Phoenix Police has released a new composite of the unidentified woman, who found murdered in 1983, in a rural area that is now known as Ahwatukee.

That same location is now a strip mall, and now, modern DNA testing can gives an accurate image of what she looked like, and even more.

"With the Parabon, they're getting more genetic markers for us to understand, so they're extracting the DNA to give us a better screenshot of this person's ancestry," said Christen Eggers, an Identification Coordinator with the Maricopa County Medical Examiner's Office.

Most DNA testing currently available to law enforcement will provide a unique profile that can help identify a person.

"And that would just tell us if the individual was male or female," said Eggers. "With the Parabon, that can give us eye color, skin color, and all that information about the ancestry."

In this cold case, the victim's DNA indicated she had light brown skin and brown eyes, and that she was part of the San Carlos Apache tribe. Distant relatives, however, could not identify her. Now police hope someone else can.

"Not only are we identifying and giving somebody back their name and giving family closure, but we can also help solve unsolved homicides too," said Eggers.

Similarly, DNA from a known person could be used to identify an unknown person.

This type of DNA testing is done through a private company, and costs several thousands of dollars for just one case. Police say it is possible to use this type of testing in the Hacienda rape investigation, as they could use the baby's DNA to create an image and description of the suspect, but first, detectives will likely test the DNA samples they already collected from male staff members, and see if anyone is a match to the baby's profile.