Investigators say DNA links Nashville murder victim to Chilton County

Investigators say DNA links Nashville murder victim to Chilton County
A cold case murder in Nashville, Tennessee has ties to Chilton County. Nashville detectives are trying to identity a woman who was killed back in March of 1998. But what makes this case so interesting is how investigators were able to use DNA and ancestral research to link her to Chilton County. (Source: WBRC)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - A cold case murder in Nashville, Tennessee has ties to Chilton County.

Nashville detectives are trying to identity a woman who was killed back in March of 1998. But what makes this case so interesting is how investigators were able to use DNA and ancestral research to link her to Chilton County.

So, how is all this possible?

A UAB pathologist explains. The cold case unit of the Metro Nashville Police Department is trying to figure out who this woman is. Her body was found floating in the Cumberland River in Tennessee on March 18, 1998. Investigators said her DNA links her to family in Chilton County, Alabama.

But some wonder how they were able to make that connection.

“What probably happened was the victim of this murder had some tissue that was available that a research lab or a forensic lab could extract the DNA and then they could analyze the DNA to basically get a DNA …a unique identification at the DNA level based on the sequence variation,” said UAB Pathologist, Dr. Alexander Mackinnon.

He explained that sequence variation is like a fingerprint, which can be used to identify a person, but other related fingerprints must already be in a database to make a match.

“So, what they might have done here was looked at this DNA sequence and found very, very close matches and then you can use basic logic like, ‘Okay…they’re close matches and these close matches are all related to each other so therefore this patient…or this victim was also probably related them,’” Dr. Mackinnon explained.

Dr. Mackinnon added by getting these close matches, investigators can find clues to help them figure out where someone might be from, and ultimately help them solve a case.

The victim is described as a white or Hispanic woman, between the ages of 30- and 55-years old. Investigators said she had short hair that was dyed light brown or blonde. They also said she had green or hazel eyes, was about 5-feet-2 inches tall, and weighed about 167 pounds. She was wearing Tweety Bird pants, white Reebok shoes, a Leo necklace and two rings.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 615-742-7463.

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