Sources: Police are using new DNA technology to give Vanessa Marcotte’s killer a face

PRINCETON, MA (WHDH) - It has been more than three months since police found Vanessa Marcotte’s body in the woods of Princeton.

DNA found at the scene hasn’t matched anyone in any criminal database. But 7News has learned investigators are turning to new DNA technology that could literally show them the killer’s face.

“We focus on externally visible traits. So we do eye color, hair color, skin color, freckling, the shaping of the face, then also the person’s geographic ancestry or ethnic ancestry. So where their ancestors are from. Using DNA gathered at a crime scene,” said Ellen McRae Greyak, the director of the Virginia lab, Parabon.

Sources tell 7News Parabon will use DNA from the Princeton scene to create a profile of the suspect.

Scientists there created a DNA database with physical traits typically associated with specific genes. Working with police, the company takes crime scene DNA samples, runs them through their database and is able to identify the outward characteristics of that person and create a composite sketch.

With that information, “It’s been used by the federal government, we know the technology is solid,” explained Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni, who was the first law enforcement agency in Massachusetts to use the technology. Gulluni goes on to say, “it’s led us to new places. It’s generated hundreds of tips for the public from all over the country. It’s been very productive for us.”

This past September, Gulluni released a composite sketch of the suspect in the murder of Lisa Ziegert. She was abducted nearly 25 years ago and her killer has never been found. Lisa’s mother Diane says this could be the break they’ve been looking for.

“It would mean that we were able to bring justice for Lisa,” said Diane.

Justice that Vanessa Marcotte’s family is also hoping to get, now that investigators will have more information to go on.

Greyak says, “Now they’ve got something new, some new place to start, they can go public with the information we give them. Try to get new tips or they can use it internally to try to reinvigorate the investigation.”

There are limits to the technology. So far it is not possible to predict height and weight. Still, the testing helps police eliminate suspects that don’t fit the DNA profile.

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