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Abilene police may use DNA-based composites to solve crimes

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ABILENE, Texas - After Brownwood police used a DNA-based profile to catch a murder suspect, Abilene police say they might explore the technology for their own lingering cases.

Parabon Snapshot of Virginia has a method of DNA phenotyping that has been used in hundreds of cases. The company creates a computer generated image based on characteristics identified in DNA.

While only a small fraction of the cases become public, one that did led to the arrest in the murder of Chantay Blankinship, a Lake Brownwood woman who was found beaten to death near her home in 2016.

Brownwood Police publicized the snapshot of the murder suspect in early November and Ryan Riggs was charged with capital murder on Thursday. BPD said Riggs wasn't even on their radar until the sketch was released. Their snapshot cost the department $4,000.

Sgt. Lynn Beard with the Abilene Police Department said they learned about this type of technology after the Brownwood arrest.

"It's technology that I think certainly proves useful in as much as identifying a suspect as much as it is ruling suspects out," Beard said.

He said that with this type of DNA technology, APD could be able to eliminate suspects based on hair and eye color.

Beard said he was around when DNA was first used in criminal investigations; many people thought the technology was amazing and he didn't think something new would come up.

"Now here they are," Beard said. "They thought of something else, so as technology evolves it certainly helps us enhance our abilities to solve crimes."

Snapshot was made available to Law Enforcement in 2015 and most cases are confidential. Other cases are only made public to generate leads.

Parabon Snapshot CEO Steven Armentrout said he is proud of his team.

"It is very gratifying, of course, to work on research that ultimately is adding value to society, and so it's very gratifying to see law enforcement using a tool effectively to serve the criminal justice system better," Armentrout said.

APD said they will be doing research on Snapshot as far as cost, turnaround time, and how much DNA is needed.

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