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Victim of 1988 Homicide from Joliet Identified by Genetic Genealogy 

Sebastopol, CA – On March 5, 2021, the Newton County Indiana Coroner’s Office positively identified a woman whose body was found along Beaver Creek in the Willow Slough State Fish and Wildlife Area on October 8, 1988, as that of Jenifer Noreen Denton from Joliet, Illinois. Jenifer was twenty-four years old when she went missing from her Joliet home leaving behind her one-year-old daughter and all her personal belongings. When she was found, it was determined that Jenifer had been shot at least once in the head. This case is still considered to be open and further investigations are underway into this murder. 

After exhausting all leads, the Newton County Indiana Coroner’s Office first reached out to the DNA Doe Project in late 2019. DNA extract was obtained from UNT Center for Human Identification. In March 2020, the DNA was sent to HudsonAlpha Discovery for whole genome sequencing. After data was obtained, bioinformatics work was performed by Kevin Lord of Saber Investigations in Belton, Texas, in May of 2020 to produce a file suitable for upload to genealogical databases. 

On May 7, 2020, the file was uploaded to GEDmatch. DNA Doe Project was also given permission by the agency to upload the file to Family Tree DNA (FTDNA). This was completed on June 6, 2020. The top matches were distant cousins which represented both parents. The change in the Terms of Service at GEDMatch effective January 11, 2021, revealed a close relative match which led to the identification. 

DDP wishes to acknowledge the contributions of those groups and individuals who helped solve this case: Newton County Indiana Coroner’s Office, Becky Goddard, Chief Deputy Prosecutor for Newton County, Indiana State Police labs in Lowell and Indianapolis, Indiana, Detective David Andrews, Indiana State Police; HudsonAlpha Discovery for sequencing; Kevin Lord of Saber Investigations for bioinformatics; and GEDmatch and Family Tree DNA for providing their databases, and the DNA Doe Project volunteers who tirelessly work to bring victims home.

About the DNA Doe Project

The DNA Doe Project, Inc. is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to identify John and Jane Does and return them to their families. The genealogy research is pro bono, but relies on donations to fund lab costs when agencies cannot afford them.  To date DDP has made over forty confirmed identifications.  Discover more at https://dnadoeproject.org/ .

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