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Cold Homicide and Research Genealogy Effort

Award Information

Award #
Funding Category
Competitive Discretionary
Awardee County
San Diego
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $533,200)

In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity. – Albert Einstein

Home to more than three million people, San Diego County has over 1,600 unsolved ‘cold case’ homicides. At the heart of each crime is a victim and their family who wait for justice and hope the killer will one day be held accountable. The community too waits for these crimes to be solved and for the legal system to protect society from dangerous offenders. As time passes and memories fade - and as witnesses pass away and evidence is lost - these murders only become harder to solve and prosecute.

Amid these difficulties, the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office (SDCDA) sees opportunity. Begun in 2020 with funding from the Prosecuting Cold Cases Using DNA Program (BJA-2020-18432), the Cold Homicide and Research Genealogy Effort (CHARGE) solves and prosecutes cold homicides though the use of Forensic Genetic Genealogy (FGG.) FGG is an exciting investigative tool that CHARGE used to identify the killer of a young woman in 1974 and the killer of a Navy sailor in 1990. SDCDA is prosecuting both offenders and, in 2022, tried and convicted an offender identified by FGG for a rape and murder committed over fifty years ago. (Appendix A.)

From over 400 unsolved homicides with DNA profiles in CODIS from unknown suspects, CHARGE selects appropriate cases for FGG, procures the necessary DNA testing, conducts genealogy to generate investigative leads, and ultimately seeks to identify offenders who have long evaded detection. Once identified, SDCDA helps law enforcement prepare the case, then prosecutes the offender. Using FGG, CHARGE provides long overdue closure, justice, and accountability.

CHARGE relies on the experience of SDCDA’s Cold Case Homicide unit, the expertise of a forensic genealogist, and a seasoned homicide investigator. CHARGE has created FGG knowledge and capability at SDCDA that benefits San Diego County. Data gathered during CHARGE demonstrates the value of FGG in cold case homicide investigations, the time and resources required, and can assist in the development of evidence-based best practices for FGG investigations and prosecutions.

SDCDA seeks further funding for CHARGE to build on these gains, to increase prosecutions in cold case homicides through FGG, and to positively contribute to the national conversation regarding the ability of law enforcement to pursue justice through FGG fairly and with respect for privacy. Through CHARGE, SDCDA demonstrates the power of FGG when used responsibly.

Date Created: September 14, 2023