Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $437,383)
Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG) offers a capability to identify investigative leads when CODIS searching is unproductive, and IGG can provide time efficient methods for removing perpetrators of serial violent crimes, such as rape and murder from the community, thereby increasing public safety. However, use of IGG has preceded establishment of best practices. The 2021 TWG operational requirements identified the need for further development, assessment, and evaluation of IGG testing procedures for use by crime labs. This study will support the TWG requirements by assessing the ability of genotyping technologies to develop useful profiles from low-template and degraded sexual assault samples for genealogical searching in law enforcement accessible Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) genealogical databases and support rapid, accurate, efficient identification of the samples’ source. In Phase I, genotyping by Illumina Global Screening Array BeadChip, WGS on NovaSeq 6000, and targeted sequencing with Verogen ForenSeq Kintelligence Kit will be compared for sensitivity to low-level DNA input concentrations and specificity for artificially degraded DNA using whole semen and nascent semen DNA samples. The high-density SNP genotype profiles will be compared against databased genotypes in order to determine the maximum distance at which known or potential genealogical associations can be identified. In Phase II, the limitations will be further tested by generating a mock case scenario with laboratory-created challenging samples exhibiting both low-level concentration and DNA degradation utilizing a known donor for whom verified family members of known relationship distance greater than 5th degree (first cousin once removed) are present in DTC databases. After genotyping mock samples with methods most applicable to each sample’s particular characteristics, as determined by Phase I evaluations, a full genealogical investigative workflow conforming to the Genealogical Proof Standard will be applied to demonstrate whether or not increasingly distant relatives can be identified and at what distance identification is no longer possible. Dissemination of the results of this study will provide the community with much needed systematic analyses and direct comparisons of available technologies and allow practitioners to make more informed decisions when working with limited resources. Results may assist in developing lab-specific criteria for processing irreplaceable DNA evidence samples with IGG and development of new, more efficient genealogical workflows. Study results will be disseminated to the forensic community through publications in peer-reviewed journals and presentations at scientific meetings.