Jennifer McAllister, whose remains were found in a Coney Island...

Jennifer McAllister, whose remains were found in a Coney Island park in 2015, has been identified using genetic genealogy, the NYPD said. Credit: Monique McAllister Bailey

The mystery of the identity of a Brooklyn woman whose dismembered remains were found strewn around a park in early 2015 has been solved with help of the investigative technique of genetic genealogy, a method being used in the Gilgo Beach homicides investigation and other notable Long Island crimes.

Through the work of a specially trained NYPD criminalist who can do genealogic searches, detectives were able to confirm that the remains found in Calvert Vaux Park in Coney Island by bird-watchers years ago were those of Jennifer McAllister, a single mother who disappeared in 2014 at age 33. She had been living in the Coney Island area, said NYPD officials.

The identification of McAllister is among the first cases solved by the NYPD with genetic genealogy, officials said recently. In October, a Queens man pleaded guilty to the killing of a retired World War I veteran whose remains found in a shallow grave were identified with genealogy some 46 years after he was slain.

Genetic genealogy has been used to solve a number of homicides and missing persons cases around the country in recent years. It involves comparing unidentified DNA profiles with those contained in public databases like Ancestry.com to find relatives who may help identify a crime victim or suspect.

Last year, it helped the FBI and Suffolk County police identify the deceased killer of Eve Wilkowitz, 20, a Bay Shore woman who was raped and strangled in 1980. In 2020, the FBI was able to use the method to identify Valerie Mack, a 24 year-old Gilgo Beach victim who also was dismembered.

After McAllister’s remains were found, NYPD detectives were able to publicize a tattoo found on her body which appeared to spell “Monique” as a possible lead to her identity. The tattoo later was determined through closer examination to spell “Konique,” the first name of McAllister’s son. McAllister’s DNA was run through law enforcement databases but got no hits, as did a check of her fingerprints, said retired NYPD assistant chief Patrick Conry, who handled the case until his retirement in 2019 but has stayed apprised of the investigation.

“The detectives in this case ran down hundreds of leads that went nowhere,” Conry said of cops at the 60th Precinct and Brooklyn South homicide. ”Yet they persisted and were able to identify the victim.“

According to McAllister’s sister, Monique McAllister Bailey of Queens, an aunt had submitted a DNA profile to Ancestry.com, which provided a crucial lead for an NYPD civilian expert trained in genealogy. Police eventually sat down with family members who alerted investigators to the identify of the missing McAllister, she said. Further DNA tests confirmed McAllister's identity, officials explained.

“It is good to know, but it is not closure,” said Bailey about her sister being identified. Bailey said her dead sister’s son for years struggled with the belief that his mother abandoned him but now knows the truth about what happened.

“This case is a great example of how advances and new techniques like forensic genealogy and familial DNA matching can provide the leads to solve a case and bring closure to victims' families. Sometimes it is the only lead,” said Conry.

The investigation into McAllister’s death continues but has not yet led to any arrest for her murder, NYPD officials said.

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