Cold cases getting solved with new DNA system
In less than two years, police investigators are reaping the benefits of using a new crime-solving tool. The system uploads crime scene DNA to a public genealogy website to to link suspects to cold cases.
An 84-year-old man was sentenced to consecutive life sentences in Wisconsin Friday after a DNA match in 2019 helped investigators solve a pair of more-than-four-decade-old cold case murders.
Raymand Vannieuwenhoven was convicted last month of murdering 25-year-old David Schuldes and 24-year-old Ellen Matheys at a northeastern Wisconsin campsite in July 1976.
Schuldes and Matheys, an engaged couple, set up their campsite and were about to go for a walk when two shots from a .30-caliber rifle rang out. One of the bullets hit Schuldes in the neck, killing him.
Matheys ran, but Vannieuwenhoven eventually caught up to her, raped her, then shot her twice in the chest, according to investigators.
The case went cold for decades, but investigators worked with DNA technology company Parabon NanoLabs in 2018 to try to identify a DNA sample from Matheys’ shorts. The company uploaded the DNA evidence to public genealogy database GEDmatch and it came back as a match for the Vannieuwenhoven family.
This undated booking photo provided by the Marinette County, Wis., Jail shows Ray Vannieuwenhoven. (Marinette County Jail via AP File)
To get Raymand Vannieuwenhoven’s DNA, two police officers knocked on his door in March 2019 and asked him to fill out a survey on policing then mail it to the department. DNA from the licked envelope came back as a match to the evidence from the scene, and he was arrested eight days later.
At Friday’s sentencing, Judge James Morrison said he handed down consecutive life sentences due to the “depraved” and “unspeakable” nature of the crimes, Fox-affiliate WLUK reported.
“From all the evidence that I know and have heard in this case, I don’t think there was any reason to believe that Mr. Vannieuwenhoven even knew these two young people,” the judge said, according to the local news outlet. “From what I can see and tell, they were selected at random.”
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Vannieuwenhoven, meanwhile, issued a statement maintaining his innocence, while his daughter took the stand to say that all the evidence proved was that her father had an affair, WLUK reported.
An appeal in the case is likely as Vannieuwenhoven’s attorneys asked to introduce evidence that pointed the finger at two other potential suspects, but were denied.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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