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DNA technology builds composites of cold case victims, NYPD says

Composites of homicide victims, a female, left, and

Composites of homicide victims, a female, left, and a male, whose killings remain unsolved, were released by the NYPD on Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. The images were made with a device to narrow DNA matches. Photo Credit: NYPD

The NYPD released composite images of two cold case homicide victims Wednesday, both with physical traits gleaned from precision genetic technology.

The computer-generated renderings of a man and a woman are “blended facial composites” based on a relatively new type of DNA analysis known as phenotyping, said NYPD Assistant Chief Emanuel Katranakis, head of the department’s forensics investigation unit.

Phenotyping can indicate physical characteristics such as skin and eye color, eyebrow configuration and geographic ancestry, which can determine race, Katranakis said.

Department officials hope the computer-generated renderings of a man and a woman will jar someone to recognize them and help identify the dismembered remains, Katranakis said. The composite images are blended representations, Katranakis said, and only approximations of the victims’ possible physical characteristics.

Investigators previously used the technology to try and build a digital composite of a suspect in the 2016 killing of Howard Beach jogger Karina Vetrano. Detectives eventually identified Chanel Lewis using other investigative methods and charged him with murder in connection with Vetrano’s death.

“What we are hoping to do here today is to generate this photo and try and generate leads into the identity of the deceased,” said NYPD Deputy Chief James Luongo.

The male victim’s dismembered body was found in 2005 at a Maspeth waste transfer station. Investigators believe a partial skull found a few months later belonged to the victim. Luongo estimated the man was between 5-feet-3 and 5-feet-9 inches tall and weighed between 130 to 190 pounds.

Partial remains of the female victim were found in January 2015 in South Brooklyn by a bird-watcher along the edge of Gravesend Bay, said Assistant Chief Patrick Conry of the NYPD’s detective bureau. A few weeks later, a man found part of human torso without a head, about 1,000 yards southeast of the earlier discovery, Conry said. DNA and forensic analysis showed the woman to be of sub-Saharan ancestry, he said.

One important clue in the case of the female victim — estimated to be between the ages of 20 and 45, was the calf tattoo of a heart with the name “Monique” inscribed on it, Conry said.

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