New Investigative Approach Helps Solve Minnesota Cold Cases Through DNA 'Family Tree'

August 28, 2018 10:18 PM

The Minnesota BCA, in unsolved cold cases, is using a relatively new DNA technology to help them track down elusive criminals in the state's felony DNA database.

BCA Superintendent, Drew Evans, told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS the so-called "Familial DNA" technology has only been used in four cases so far in Minnesota because it is used as a last resort in unsolved cases.


"This is very time-consuming and expensive," Evans said. "We use it only when we have exhausted all other leads in that investigation because we have many other ways of solving these types of crimes in a quicker fashion."

Familial DNA allows investigators to run a suspect's full DNA profile through the state's felony conviction database to see if there is a hit on a family member who is, or has been, incarcerated for a felony in the past.

If investigators get a hit in their felony conviction database, they know the killer is in that person's DNA family tree and then intensive work begins to find out which person in that DNA family tree is a match to the suspected killer.

"We look at people that may be in that person's family tree who could have actually committed the crime," Evans said. "Because we know we have a full DNA profile and only one person committed this crime."

Harley Feldman's daughter, 31-year-old Allison Feldman, was a 2001 Minnetonka High School graduate who started a new career in Arizona and was murdered in 2015 by an unknown attacker in her Scottsdale home.

After three years, the case went cold and Harley Feldman urged Arizona investigators to try Familial DNA searches and authorities there agreed.

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In April 2018, they got a match on a prisoner serving time in Arizona for child molestation using Familial DNA and that eventually helped trace Allison's suspected killer to that prisoner.

It happened to be the prisoner's brother, Ian Mitcham.

Mitcham has since been charged with first-degree murder in Allison Feldman's death.

Harley Feldman told KSTP he does not think his daughter's killer would have been caught if Arizona investigators had not used the Familial DNA approach.

"Do I think it could have been solved without it?" Feldman said.  "Well, it could have been I suppose, but I just don't think it would have happened if the Arizona investigators had not taken the time to think outside the box and try the Familial DNA technology."

Evans said there are three unsolved cases in Minnesota where the BCA has employed the Familial DNA approach, but those cases are still open right now.

In 2015, Evans said the BCA was able to use Familial DNA to solve a 34-year-old murder case in Duluth when they determined Cecil Oliver had murdered 17-year-old Carolyn Andrew in 1981.

Oliver was dead and buried in Illinois at the time the case was solved.


Jay Kolls

Copyright 2018 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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