FBI share DNA evidence with Texas authorities in unsolved 1991 Austin Yogurt Shop murders

FBI share DNA evidence with Texas authorities in unsolved 1991 Austin Yogurt Shop murders

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Vincent Sellers started this petition to Federal Bureau of Investigation and

On Friday, December 6, 1991, in Austin, Texas, a frozen yogurt shop was robbed and set on fire after four teenage girls were brutally murdered inside the store. The victims were 13-year-old Amy Ayers, 17-year-old Eliza Thomas, 17-year-old Jennifer Harbison, and her 15-year-old sister Sarah.  Aside from immeasurable impact on the families of the victims, the entire community of Austin suffered what has been referred to as a loss of innocence.  The investigation into this heinous crime remains open and a top priority for the Austin Police Department (APD) and the Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore.  APD detectives have pursued all avenues of investigation, including DNA analysis.  Newly developed techniques and sharing of information within the law enforcement community allowed for the first major break in the case in recent years.  A type of DNA evidence referred to as Y-STR was obtained from one of the female victims who was sexually assaulted; this DNA belongs to an unknown male.  

The University of Central Florida's National Center for Forensic Science created a database that allows for matching of Y-STR DNA samples.  Unlike other types of DNA, Y-STR DNA does not allow for guaranteed identification of an individual, but is useful in identifying a group of individuals that are part of the same family, such as parents, brothers, and uncles.  In 2017, Austin investigators entered the DNA sample obtained from the yogurt shop murders, and a match was obtained.  While this type of DNA sample could potentially belong to thousands of people, it is still an incredibly useful tool in that it could help open up new avenues of investigation that could possibly lead to a solved case, and has done so in other similar cases.

The University of Central Florida received the matching DNA sample in their database from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  APD investigators requested to learn more about the donor of the sample from the FBI, and unfortunately the FBI refused to disclose any of the information.  Requests (including a recent letter from Congressman Michael McCaul of Texas to the FBI Assistant Director G. Clayton Grigg) to-date have not been productive.

The role of the FBI should be to assist local law enforcement, share information, and collaborate in cases like the yogurt shop murders; this petition asks the FBI to share the donor information of the matching Y-STR DNA with APD accordingly.  While it is possible that this DNA evidence will not lead to a solved case, the FBI should be a partner with the APD, and trust that the information will be used responsibly.  The FBI also has a job to protect information by law; if that is a conflict in this case, then this petition asks the FBI to recommend mechanisms necessary to share this information with APD lawfully (Attorney General's opinion, create a joint task force with APD to allow sharing of intelligence, Congressional action, etc.).  As a former Special Agent in the FBI, I have worked numerous cases with local law enforcement, and the success of law enforcement comes when we work together with a common purpose.  Let's cut through the red tape and bureaucracy and do the right thing to help solve this horrendous crime.

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