Police detectives in Tampa Bay said they have arrested a suspect in a 14-year-old rape case after using the database of a genealogy testing website to match DNA evidence.
“The victim now can have some closure in her life,” assistant Tampa police chief Ruben Delgado said.
According to police reports, the rape took place in 2007 when a University of Tampa student was walking back to her dorm after attending the popular Gasparilla Pirate Festival.
The victim told detectives she was intoxicated and may have been stumbling around when the suspect, Jared Vaughn, offered to walk her to her dorm where he proceeded to rape her.
DNA evidence was collected at the time but did not find any matches, and the case remained unsolved for more than a decade. In 2020, however, detectives revisited the case and began to search genealogy testing databases, including GEDmatch and FamilyTree, two services often used by people who are researching their ancestry, to find potential matches.
A lab identified Vaughn, now 44, as the possible suspect, so police officers traveled to West Virginia, where he now lives, to conduct another DNA, which brought a one-in-700-billion match.
“It has taken 14 years for resolution in this case, but it’s something that was important to us and was important to the victim, to get some closure in this case,” Delgado said, according to Fox 13.
“That was the whole idea about this squad, to kind of take these cases that haven’t been unsolved, kind of reenergize them.”
Florida was the first state to establish its own forensic genealogy unit in 2018. Similar units have since been created in California and Utah to solve cold cases.
Special Agent Mark Brutnell of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement urged people to allow their DNA to be accessed by law enforcement.
He said: “Our success depends on info found in public genealogy databases, where participants – and this is important – must opt-in for law enforcement matches.”