DNA testing leads to arrests in Cumberland County, other cold cases

Cumberland County News

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — An arrest has been made in a case that’s haunted the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office for more than 20 years.

In 1999, deputies say someone stuffed “Baby Michael” into a trash bag and tossed him out of a moving car.

“This was something personal to this sheriff’s office, very personal. They weren’t going to stop until they got it solved,” said Cumberland County Sheriff Ennis Wright.

The child’s mother, Deborah Riddle O’Conner, was charged with the baby’s murder this week.

Investigators linked her to the case after contacting Bode Technology, a private forensic DNA lab, officials said.

A family member’s DNA helped lead detectives to O’Conner.

“It’s been an incredibly effective tool,” said Andrew Singer, vice president of sales and marketing at Bode Technology.

The database lets people submit their DNA test results from companies like Ancestry or 23 and Me.

People opt in to allow law enforcement to use their results in violent crime investigations.

Experts use the DNA to map out family trees and can see where an unknown sample may fit.

“It’s providing investigative leads in cases that are public safety issues, that are violent crimes, and had previously been unsolvable until this technology enabled the ability to use DNA to solve these crimes,” said Singer.

DNA technology also helped with the Ramsey Street Rapist case in Fayetteville.

In 2018, Darold Bowden was arrested for a string of rapes — nearly a decade after the crimes.

Genealogist CeCe Moore helped piece together the genetic puzzle that pointed to him.

“Over the next couple of years, I predict that hundreds of cold cases will finally be resolved and hundreds of victim’s families will finally receive answers, peace and eventually, justice,” said Moore.

Experts say they’ve had success testing DNA dated back to World War II.

One case people are asking this technology to be used in is the death of Baby John Nash.

The newborn was found dead in a dumpster with a Cheetos bucket in Rocky Mount 13 years ago.

Advocates are asking police to turn to the latest DNA technology to help find his killer in a case that’s turned cold.

CBS 17 reached out to Rocky Mount police to see if they have or plan to try DNA testing for Baby John Nash. They have not responded as of the time of this posting.

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