At the end of last month, a woman got a call from law enforcement, telling her they matched a 23andMe test that she took to a murder case that had gone cold.
Jackie Vadurro thought the homicide detectives were kidding around, but it turned out that they weren’t. The homicide case wasn’t recent, either — it was thirty-six years old.
“I was so taken aback,” Vadurro told the New York Post.
“I knew I hadn’t done anything wrong,” she said, “But when the police call you about a murder, you’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, what am I involved in?’”
Vadurro spoke about the situation on social media, as well. She said that no one ever said the woman who was killed was missing and authorities don’t know who she is. She also has noted that officials have found out that she was a third or second cousin of the woman who died.
Detectives have also discovered that she was on Vadurro’s maternal side and officials think that she was her mother’s great-grandfather’s illegitimate child.
“Me and this Jane Doe share DNA, she’s part of me,” she said. “I’m glad that I’m able to bring her story to light, and hopefully [help] catch the horrible person who killed her.”
The story, while an interesting one, raises some general concerns about security and privacy of people’s personal information, especially when it comes to their biological information.
A 2018 report in Science noted that researchers were able to easily use DNA and other information to start with 1.3 million people and nail down who a person was to less than twenty individuals.
And it’s not the first time DNA has been used to solve murder cases that were previously unsolvable. In 2020, authorities were able to catch an alleged murderer after his distant relative put her own DNA on GedMatch.
“I didn’t really think anything would come of it,” Jessi Still said. “I just uploaded it on there. Kind of forgot about it.”
An investigator with the sheriff’s department reached out to Still over email and said she was a relative match to the person suspected of murdering Helene Pruszynski in 1980.
“They told me that they had gotten [my DNA profile] from GedMatch. That I had shown up as the closest DNA relative to this person that was the murderer,” Still said. “First, I thought maybe it was a joke or a prank. I really didn’t know what to make of it. Nobody ever wants to think about being related to the killer. Which, of course, I don’t want either.”
They used her DNA information, among other tactics, to find and arrest James Clanton, to whom she is related via her father’s great, great, great grandparents.
“It’s really just made me realize, like, everything is connected and it’s a small world,” she said.