Fascinating New DNA Technique Putting a Face on Four Year Old Double Homicide Case

Carl Alston of Columbia, South Carolina, has been waiting for this day for four years. On 9 January 2011, his daughter, Candra Alston, 25 and her 3-year-old daughter, Malaysia Boykin, were brutally murdered in their Brook Pines Apartments home.

That day marked the beginning of a long journey to bring the murderer of his only child and granddaughter “LayLay” to justice.

Investigators have interviewed over 200 people, traveled to several states and collected DNA samples from 150 people. Leads have come from everywhere, but without a DNA match or an eyewitness, the trail to the killer has remained cold. Mr. Alston has not been able to rest knowing the murderer is still on the loose. For the past four years, he has kept the memory of his daughter and granddaughter alive with consistent outreaches to the public through the media, asking for any information that might help the investigation.

On the four year anniversary of the double homicide, Columbia police revealed new information that may soon make it possible to offer a grieving father closure, thanks to a breakthrough technology in forensic DNA phenotyping, called Snapshot.

Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company located in Reston, Virginia has been developing Snapshot for nearly four-years with funding from the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Snapshot gives crime solvers a new way to use DNA. (Read more about the new DNA technique solving the case HERE)

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What is Snapshot?

By Parabon NanoLabs. DNA carries the genetic instruction set for an individual’s physical characteristics, producing the wide range of appearances among people1. By determining how genetic information translates into physical appearance, it is possible to “reverse-engineer” DNA into a physical profile. Snapshot reads tens of thousands of genetic variants (“genotypes”) from a DNA sample and uses this information to predict what an unknown person looks like.

Over the past four years, using deep data mining and advanced machine learning algorithms in a specialized bioinformatics pipeline, Parabon — with funding support from the US Department of Defense (DoD) — developed the Snapshot Forensic DNA Phenotyping System, which accurately predicts genetic ancestry, eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, and face shape in individuals from any ethnic background, even individuals with mixed ancestry.

Because some traits are partially determined by environmental factors and not DNA alone, Snapshot trait predictions are presented with a corresponding measure of confidence, which reflects the degree to which such factors influence each particular trait. Traits, such as eye color, that are highly heritable (i.e., are not greatly affected by environmental factors) are predicted with higher accuracy and confidence than those that have lower heritability; these differences are shown in the confidence metrics that accompany each Snapshot trait prediction. (Read more from the company that applies this new DNA technique HERE)

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