Husband and wife’s 1973 murder solved through novel DNA technique of genetic genealogy: Sheriff

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undefined/iStock(YELLOWSTONE COUNTY, Mont.) -- More than 45 years after a young husband and wife were killed in their Montana home, a suspected murderer has been identified thorough DNA and genetic genealogy, a new technique that has been helping to crack cold cases around the country, officials said.

But the suspect -- a former co-worker with no criminal history -- is no longer around to face justice.

He died 16 years ago.

On the night of Nov. 6, 1973, Clifford Bernhardt and his wife Linda Bernhardt were murdered in their home, Yellowstone County Sheriff Mike Linder said at a news conference Monday. When Linda Bernhardt didn't show up for work the next day, her mother went to the house and found their bodies.

The double murder went cold until 2004 when DNA was found on some of the evidence collected from the scene, Linder said.

Over many years, dozens of attempts were made to get a match, but none of the potential suspect samples matched the DNA left behind by the unknown killer at the crime scene, Fox said.

In 2015, the county hired Parabon, a company that provides DNA analysis for law enforcement, to help analyze evidence from the crime scene to predict characteristics of the suspect, Linder said. Parabon made a composite predicting the suspect's ethnicity, complexion, hair color and eye color, Linder said.

In August 2018, "our investigators received the initial genealogy report. Based on that report our detectives recommissioned Parabon to create further, in depth genealogical analysis," Linder said.

Then on Jan. 3, 2019, through genealogy, Parabon analysts determined the suspect was one of two relatives, Linder said.

One of those two relatives had died, Linder said, and on Jan. 8 investigators obtained DNA from the living family member.

Later that month, further analysis positively eliminated the living family member as the suspected killer, Linder said.

In 2015, the county hired Parabon, a company that provides DNA analysis for law enforcement, to help analyze evidence from the crime scene to predict characteristics of the suspect, Linder said. Parabon made a composite predicting the suspect's ethnicity, complexion, hair color and eye color, Linder said.

In August 2018, "our investigators received the initial genealogy report. Based on that report our detectives recommissioned Parabon to create further, in depth genealogical analysis," Linder said.

Then on Jan. 3, 2019, through genealogy, Parabon analysts determined the suspect was one of two relatives, Linder said.

One of those two relatives had died, Linder said, and on Jan. 8 investigators obtained DNA from the living family member.

Later that month, further analysis positively eliminated the living family member as the suspected killer, Linder said.

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