Memphis police detective employed new technology to help them solve a decades-old cold case.
During a news conference, police said a man forced his way into a Memphis home, bound and held four women captive at gunpoint, and sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl.
At the time, police did not have a suspect and investigators asked for the public's help.
A media release was provided, along with a sketch of the suspect. No one was able to give credible tips to help solve the case and no definitive suspect was identified, police said.
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Memphis police immediately reached out to the company to assist in multiple investigations, including the rape of the 14-year-old girl.
In 2016, the 14-year-old rape kit was tested by Sorenson Forensics through grant money from the DANY. It developed the suspect’s DNA profile, which was entered into the FBI’s database of DNA samples known as CODIS, or Combined DNA Index System.
In CODIS, the suspect’s DNA matched with two out-of-state cases. The case details for the other two cases were as followed:
- The first case was from 1990 in Greenville, South Carolina, where a 28-year-old female was found deceased in her apartment. She had been beaten, strangled, and sexually assaulted.
- The second case was from 1998 near Portageville, Missouri, where a 12-year-old female and her 38-year-old mother were found deceased inside their home. Both had been shot, and the child had been sexually assaulted.
The DNA still did not reveal a suspect’s name. MPD and police in Missouri and South Carolina reexamined their cases, re-interviewed original suspects, and collected DNA samples from them.
All of those individuals were eliminated as suspects through DNA verification.
The case of the 14-year-old in Memphis went cold -- until police learned of DNA forensic software that was developed by Parabon Nanolabs out of Reston, Virginia.
Police said this new software is capable of unlocking information contained in DNA that is collected from the scene of a crime. It can then be compared to the public genealogical databases used to assist law enforcement agencies with unsolved cases.
In August of 2018, Parabon Nanolabs said Robert Eugene Brashers was likely the suspect.
Police said, his criminal record included attempted murder, burglary, impersonating a police officer, and unlawful possession of a weapon.
Brashers was also arrested on April 12, 1998, fourteen days after the Missouri homicides, in Paragould, Arkansas.
He was attempting to break into a woman's home. He cut the phone lines to the residence and was in possession of gloves, wire cutters, a video camera, and a revolver, police said.
With the new found evidence against Brashers, a judge ordered his remains to be dug up. His DNA matched the suspect in the crimes.
The funding for the new technology was provided by the Memphis and Shelby County Law Enforcement Foundation. They agreed to pay for Parabon Nanolaps to test several cases.
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