In the 1988 murder, DNA was used to identify the victim and her killer

In December 1988, two Northern Georgia Department of Transportation workers found the body of a young woman on Interstate 59 in Dade County, about five miles from the Alabama state line. The woman had been strangled and abandoned in a lane heading north.

Her identity and that of her killer will remain unknown for nearly 34 years.

Now, with information from the forensic genealogy test, the authorities I believe the victim is 19-year-old Stacey Lynn Chahorsky who was commuting across the United States, heading to her home in Norton Shores, Michigan.

They’ve also identified the killer, in a rare case where investigative genetic genealogy It was used to identify both the victim and the killer in the same case. Authorities said at a news conference on Tuesday that Henry Frederick Wise, a truck driver who regularly drove the I-59 lane, was the one who killed Ms Cawthorne.

“She was just a free spirit. She loved to travel,” said Joe Montgomery, the special agent in charge of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, who was in close contact with Mrs. Shahorsky’s mother, Mary Beth Smith. “She was on the move, though her mother warned her not to So. She wanted to see parts of the country.”

Ms. Cawthorne called Ms. Smith in September of 1988 to let her know that she was on her way home.

Agent Montgomery said Mr. Wise likely carried her into a truck stop. Mr. Wise, who was also a stunt driver, died in a car accident at Myrtle Beach Speedway in South Carolina in 1999.

Ms. Şahorsky was identified in March. Her killer was identified only days ago and announced on Tuesday.

Use of genetic or forensic genealogywhich uses DNA databases for matching Unidentified remains, like that of Mrs. Cawthorne, for a large network of people, has grown in recent years. David Mittleman, founder and CEO of Outram CompanyThe private DNA lab that built the profiles used to solve Ms. Shahorsky’s case.

He said Ms. Chowrowski’s skeletal remains had become degraded and damaged over time, a challenge shared with decades-old cases. Sometimes ancient remains can be produced Too little DNA to work with. In the end, modern technologies were used to help solve Ms. Şahorsky’s case. Bodily fluids were found near where Ms. Chowrowski’s body was found and eventually traced back to Mr. Wise.

Outram does the work of victim identification only, unlike other genetic genealogy companies that may also work on adoption matching, heritage research or medical testing. The organization is working with law enforcement at the local, state and federal levels to help get answers, Mr. Mittleman said.

Uthram cooperated with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Dade County Sheriff’s Office, which funded the work done to identify Ms. Shahorsky. But funding to identify the killer came from the True Crimes Media Corporation voicewhich sponsors otherm.

The company that produces the popular “Crime Addict” and “Anatomy of Murder” Ashley Flowers, founder and CEO of Audiochuck, said the podcasts help fund Uthram’s work with a preference for using the money to solve cases or murders with unknown victims. But other than that, she has no say in how to use the sponsorship money, which they’ve provided for at least a year and a half.

Ms Flowers said: “We make a great deal of our livelihood by taking these stories from the true crime community, and it’s really important that we make sure that we respond in a really tangible way and actually help solve the cases.”

After Outram built the DNA profile, the information was turned over to Georgia law enforcement, who conducted genealogical research. At Tuesday’s press conference, Agent Montgomery said the genealogy test “doesn’t tell you exactly who it is” but it does develop a profile. “It’s almost like a tree as you work your way back toward the trunk,” he said.

Genetic genealogy has been used to solve notable cold cases, including in 2018 to identify Joseph James D’Angelo as the Golden State Killer, who were linked to more than 50 rapes and 12 murders in California between 1976 and 1986. Agent Montgomery said the successful conclusion of this case “became the driving force behind where we are today.”

Agent Montgomery, who took over the case in 2005, said solving a cold case such as Ms. Shahorsky’s twice murder was “quite unique”.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “As an agent, you live with these cases. It was overwhelming.”

In genetic genealogy, some of the databases were coming from people who independently submitted their DNA to sites like or 23andMe to find relatives or trace their genetic history. Two databases – Family Tree DNA and GEDmatch – allow law enforcement to use, or ask users to consent to authorities accessing their profiles.

This raised some questions About genetic privacy. Many experts say scientific progress has outpaced the ability to regulate the field. Michael Prins, director of the forensic sciences program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said experts discuss privacy concerns and how best to address them, while still doing this important work.

Dr Prins said genetic genealogy is “very successful, but it would be good to put some regulations in place”.

Agent Montgomery said Mr. Wise worked at Western Carolina Trucking and lived in the Carolinas as well as in Florida. His trucking route would have taken him through Chattanooga, Tennessee and Birmingham, Ala, “which would have put him in the direct route where Stacey was found.”

Agent Montgomery said authorities believed “the whole time” that the killer was a truck driver. “We couldn’t figure out who it was.”

It was Mr. Wise Criminal history in multiple states that included charges Robbery, assault and obstruction of a police officer. If Mr. Wise committed other unsolved crimes, Agent Montgomery said, “they should come to light now.”

Keri Fary, a special agent in charge at the FBI’s field office in Atlanta, said investigators found what is believed to be the killer’s DNA at the scene, “but for years they haven’t been able to connect it to someone.” Agent Montgomery said the DNA was bodily fluid, and added that Ms. Shahorsky was found partially covered by clothing.

Agent Fary said that after law enforcement “exhausted” all other leads, “the funds were secured to use forensic genealogy to generate some new leads.”

“It wasn’t long,” she said. Mr. Wise had a living individual “cooperate” and a DNA match was confirmed.

“We understand that solving this horrific crime does not ease the pain of the Stacey family,” said Agent Fary. “Nothing can. But I hope it answers some questions.”

Alain Delacerrier Contribute to research.

Leave a Comment