A woman received a call from law enforcement at the end of last month, telling her that a 23andMe test she took had been linked to a cold case murder.
Jackie Vadurro assumed the homicide detectives were joking, but it turned out they weren’t. The homicide case was also not recent — it was 36 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 also commented on the situation on social media. She claimed that no one ever stated that the woman who was killed was missing and that authorities have no idea who she is. She also stated that officials discovered she was the woman who died’s third or second cousin.
She was also discovered to be on Vadurro’s maternal side, and officials believe she was her mother’s great-illegitimate grandfather’s 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.”
While the story is intriguing, it raises some general concerns about the security and privacy of people’s personal information, particularly biological information.
According to a 2018 Science report, researchers were able to easily use DNA and other information to start with 1.3 million people and narrow down who a person was too less than twenty people.
It’s not the first time DNA has been used to solve previously unsolvable murder cases. Authorities apprehended an alleged murderer in 2020 after a distant relative uploaded her own DNA to 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 contacted Still via email and informed her that she was a relative of 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 things, to track down and apprehend James Clanton, to whom she is related through her father’s great, great, and great grandparents.
“It’s really just made me realize, like, everything is connected and it’s a small world,” she said.