Approve DNA Familial Searching in Mississippi

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On Monday, September 3rd, 1990, Betty Jones and Kathryn Crigler were gruesomely raped and killed in Starkville, Mississippi in an unsolved case known as the “Labor Day Murders.” Their story received national attention on America’s Most Wanted, artist renderings of the suspect have been made and updated, DNA tests have been run and rerun. But still, the killer has never been found. 27 years later, this case remains cold and unsolved. Advances in DNA technology such as familial searching could yield new leads for law enforcement, if only Mississippi would implement it.

Quoting the National District Attorneys Association, "Familial searching is a technique whereby a crime scene profile is deliberately run through the offender databank in the hopes of getting a list of profiles that are genetically similar to the DNA evidence and using this information as an investigative lead to interview family members of the near matches." The use of FS led to an arrest and conviction in the L.A.P.D.'s decades-old "Grim Sleeper" cold case. Even more recently, familial searching helped lead police to match a suspect in a 2015 unsolved murder out of Scottsdale, Arizona.

While Betty was murdered at the scene, Kathryn was brutally raped, beaten, and left for dead. A sexual assault kit was collected upon her arrival at the hospital, providing police with the killer’s DNA profile. A few months later, Kathryn tragically succumbed to her wounds and a deep depression. Years later, the DNA taken from the sexual assault kit was entered into Mississippi’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), and didn't reveal any exact matches in state nor national databases.

Sgt. Bill Lott of the Starkville Police Department has been the lead investigator for Betty & Kathryn’s cold case since 2001. According to him, "The science of familial DNA search is not only recognized but endorsed. There is no prohibition of familial search, but the proper protocol on how to do it ... They (the Crime Lab) do not participate in criminal investigations and therefore they neither advocate for or against familial DNA search ... This would be for law enforcement to promote and for the citizens of Mississippi who want to see victims get justice."

Our goal is to show Mississippi’s Attorney General Jim Hood, Governor Phil Bryant, and Department of Public Safety Commissioner Marshall Fisher the growing support of adopting FS, and ask them to join 12 states already using FS to help solve cold cases. This petition is only one of several measures that we believe can spark new conversations around FS in Mississippi. Without this tool, Betty & Kathryn's murder may go unsolved for another 27 years, along with numerous other cold cases in Mississippi.

Please sign our petition and help bring justice to grieving families who have lost loved ones.

WTVA - Cold Case: Who killed two elderly women in Starkville?

The Tuscaloosa News - Police seek help to solve cold case in Starkville, Miss.

The Clarion Ledger - Podcast asks whodunit about unsolved Starkville murders

NBC News - Familial DNA puts elusive killers behind bars. But only 12 states use it.

WCBI - Starkville Police have a breakthrough in Labor Day cold case

To learn more about Betty & Kathryn, listen to the Knock Knock Podcast here.