How genetic genealogy helped solve this 50-year old case of a teenage girl’s murder

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Julie Ann Hanson, left, and Barry Lee Whelpley. Credit: Daily Herald
Julie Ann Hanson, left, and Barry Lee Whelpley. Credit: Daily Herald

Barry Lee Whelpley, 76, was arrested [June 2] at his home in Minnesota for the 1972 murder of Julie Ann Hanson, 15, who died of multiple stab wounds in Naperville, Illinois, according to the Naperville Police Department.

The police identified the suspect through his DNA left at the crime scene, using genetic genealogy. Since 2018, the technique has been used by police to identify more than 150 suspects in cold cases. The technique allows police to search family members who have voluntarily submitted their DNA to genealogy databases. Genetic genealogy first came to light in the case of serial rapist and murderer Joseph DeAngelo, a former police officer known as the “Golden State Killer.”

Hanson had been reported missing after she borrowed her brother’s bicycle to attend his baseball game. Her body was found in a nearby corn field shortly after her sister reported her missing the following day.

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Whelpley was living a mile from the Hanson residence at the time of the abduction. He is currently being held on $10 million bail in a Minnesota county jail pending extradition to Illinois.

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