3 Cold Cases That Have Been Solved with Genetic Genealogy

This technique is solving hundreds of cases a year, some even decades-old.

Megan Ashley
8 min readJun 27, 2021


Photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Genetic genealogy continues to make waves, with the technique being used to solve hundreds of old cold cases. Several new companies are coming forward to aid police in using publically available DNA to piece together family trees, often narrowing down the search from far removed third cousins to honing in on their suspect.

The technique was popularized with the arrest of the notorious Golden State Killer, Joseph James DeAngelo, and has since helped to put several murderers behind bars. Police departments everywhere are now working with third-party companies to close their cold cases.

November 28, 1980, in Denver, Colorado, Kristen Kay Swanson finished her waitressing shift at the Ramada Inn. The twenty-two-year-old was last seen leaving her work parking lot. She borrowed a friend’s vehicle and went home to shower and change for a party later that evening.

Kristen Swanson (image courtesy of Denver Police Department)

She never made it to the party, which drew concern from her friends and fiance, all of whom could not locate her that evening. Her body was discovered by a bus driver the following morning in the vehicle she had borrowed. She was stabbed once in the chest and had been assaulted.

Her autopsy determined that her cause of death was a stab wound to her heart. The subsequent investigation quickly led to several dead ends. Her case, like so many others of the time, went cold. DNA evidence was collected and preserved to await technology that didn’t exist yet.

For years, those who remembered Kristen continued to advocate on her behalf. In 2009, the Denver Police Department reopened the investigation after Kristen’s friend had urged investigators to reexamine the evidence.

It didn’t take long for investigators to have a suspect. Once the samples were uploaded into the national database, they had a hit from an ex-felon with a lengthy criminal record. Roderick Bernard Elias, now fifty-three, was arrested in March 2010. In 1980, he had been out on…



Megan Ashley

She/Her, content creator, writer, true crime, and history enthusiast https://linktr.ee/truecrimemysteries