Solving Unsolved Problems: Decade-Old Cold Cases Solved by the Houston Area Forensics Lab

Othram, a unique laboratory in the world that was specifically established to identify perpetrators or victims from crime scenes, has a technology that solves decades-old cold cases in Houston. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report indicates there are more than 330,000 unsolved homicides in the United States currently. The technology can examine evidence with degraded or trace amounts of DNA. Kristen Mittelman, the chief development officer at Othram, says that the laboratory is bringing facts that are missing in the forensic testing achieved before this technology.

The crime scene DNA is quite different from the DNA that an individual would obtain if they went to the doctor’s office now or took a consumer test. The lab has returned investigative leads in over 1000 cases, with at least 150 publicly announced instances in which perpetrators or victims were identified, according to Mittelman. The team of four working at the lab at its headquarters in the woods can solve several cases each day with over 50 individuals.

Mittelman believes that all cases containing DNA that has gone cold can be resolved with this technology, whether they are 46 years old or current. She adds that by the next decade, the method would be implemented in real-time, and individuals would no longer have to wait decades to discover what happened to their loved ones. Additionally, Mittelman states that the government and lawmakers are increasingly backing their technology.

Othram is merely operative with law enforcement, and Mittelman affirms that the technology is receiving increased support from lawmakers and the federal government. Richard Rodriguez, who heads Houston Police Department’s cold case division, explains that when cases come across the division, traditional methods and means should be left out the box.

Sara Ivey Edwards, the daughter of Frances Ivey, has been waiting for that justice for about four decades. Her mother was killed alongside two of her colleagues, Elizabeth Shumate and Joann Brown, in a targeted robbery in 1983. Although there are still some materials that can be used for the case, it has already been tested, and the outcomes were not satisfactory then.

The sisters of Ivey say they are interested in taking the case to Othram for justice to be served for their mother and her two colleagues. Even four decades later, Mittelman says the victims’ families show a lot of trust, and she doesn’t take it lightly. The legislators have introduced legislation which could set aside funding for advanced DNA testing, allowing law enforcement agencies to tackle previously unresolved cases.

Othram has assisted in solving the 1974 murder of Carla Walker, which remained unresolved for around 50 years, according to the content source of KPRC Click2Houston. Despite costing thousands of dollars, Othram’s unique technology is aiding the authorities in determining justice and resolving ages-old cold cases.

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