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From DNA Sketch to Confession

DNA phenotyping has led to an arrest and confession in a Texas murder case, the Associated Press reports.

Using DNA found at the crime scene where 25-year-old Chantay Blankinship was beaten to death, Parabon NanoLabs created a sketch of the suspect. Based on markers within DNA the police had, the company estimated the alleged killer's skin tone, eye color, hair color, and face shape.

According to the AP, a week after local sheriff's office released the sketch, they had 21-year-old Ryan Riggs in custody. The sketch had reminded a relative of Blankinship's of someone he knew, the AP reports. It adds that Riggs confessed.

The AP notes that some ethicists and lawyers took issue with the police releasing the sketch with no witnesses. "It risks ensnaring innocent people in webs of suspicious investigations," Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union, tells the AP. He adds that not enough is known about the interplay of genetics and facial features to rely on the technology.

Parabon's approach has also been used to try to determine what a crime victim looked like as well as to identify a serial rapist, a suspect in a decades-old murder case, and litterbugs.