U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

Identification of Unidentified Murder Victims Using Genetic Genealogy

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $49,000)

Byrne JAG Discretionary Grant Program

Orange County Sheriff’s Office, FL DNA Extraction and Genetic Genealogy (Cold Case)

Proposal Abstract

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office Homicide Cold Case Team proposes outsourcing the remains of seven unidentified murder victims suitable for DNA extraction in an effort to identify these cold cases through the application of modern-day DNA standards and genetic genealogy. The proposed services would be provided by Othram Laboratories, which currently utilizes proprietary technology to obtain suitable DNA samples for uploading from degraded human remains. “Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing” provides for enrichment to remove bacterial contamination. Bacterial contamination is a significant issue with found remains. Othram’s proprietary technology can extract a DNA profile from minimal amounts of genetic material. Additionally, Othram provides a flat rate for genetic genealogy research. It is common for genealogy researchers to charge for several hours up front, then charge for additional hours as necessary. The flat rate fee structure allows for the simplification of budgeting by reducing unforeseen costs.

Othram Laboratories operates the only laboratory purpose-built to apply the power of genome sequencing to forensic evidence for use with Forensic Genetic Genealogy (FGG) and other advanced human identification applications. Othram specializes in testing DNA evidence that has failed other testing methods or is unsuitable for testing with other laboratories. The forensic laboratory features necessary elements of forensic DNA workflows, such as pre- & post-amplification separation and unidirectional workflow. No elements of the process are outsourced to any additional parties.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office will work closely with Othram Laboratories and Unidentified Missing Persons System (NamUs). NamUs collaborates with law enforcement and medical examiner offices to establish a nationwide database of missing and unidentified persons. NamUs also facilitate the submission of DNA from the family members of long-term missing persons and unidentified human remains to the FBI. 

Citizens of Orange County are the intended beneficiaries of the project. The ultimate expected outcomes will be to solve cold cases, identify remaining victims, and provide closure to the victims' families.

Date Created: August 10, 2023