DNA Ties 1991 Murder to 17th-Century Family

Police believe results will narrow search for Sarah Yarborough's killer
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 10, 2012 1:13 PM CST
Updated Jan 14, 2012 7:00 PM CST
DNA Ties 1991 Murder to 17th-Century Family
DNA recently linked a 1991 murder to a 17th-century family.   (Shutterstock)

In December, stumped Washington state authorities sent a DNA sample from an unsolved 1991 murder to a forensic consultant in California—and though she didn't return with a match to the murderer himself, she did figure out who his 17th-century ancestors were. The DNA profile closely matched the family of Robert Fuller, whose relatives came to America on the Mayflower; the consultant found the connection by looking at genetic profiles donated by people tracing their genealogy. Of course, Fuller—who lived in Salem, Mass., beginning in 1630—probably has thousands of descendants, but detectives are optimistic that the results will help narrow their search.

Detectives will whittle down the suspects by looking at geography and physical characteristics; two composite sketches of a man in his 20s were made after 16-year-old Sarah Yarborough was murdered on her high school campus. And because the DNA trace follows males, the forensic consultant says there is "a high degree of probability" the suspect is also named Fuller. "People get excited about having a Mayflower connection," she tells CNN, "but the most important thing is having a probable last name for this guy." (More cold cases stories.)

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