AG Ferguson announces 3 Washington cold cases solved by DNA forensic genetic genealogy program

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Monday that three cold cases have been solved thanks to the office’s DNA forensic genetic genealogy program.

A 1995 murder in Kitsap County, the 2003 rape and abduction of a 17-year-old in McLeary, and two violent home invasion sexual assaults in Pullman in 2003 and 2004 were solved as a result of the program.

Paul J. Bieker was sentenced to 30 years for the 2003 rape, and Kenneth Downing pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree rape in the Pullman case. Douglas Krohne was tied to the 1995 murder in Kitsap County; he died in 2016.

These cases had unsolved for decades—DNA profiles were uploaded to the national criminal DNA database CODIS, but did not find any matches.

That is where DNA forensic genetic genealogy comes in.

The Attorney General’s Office helps bankroll the creation of genealogical profiles for suspects, which generates new leads for law enforcement to investigate. Ferguson has provided roughly $120,000 to local agencies for testing, and is sitting on an additional $170,000 to assist with more cold cases.

"This sends a message to survivors that we will not give up on cold cases," said Ferguson. "My office will continue this initiative to help law enforcement close these cases."

Ferguson’s Sexual Assault Kit Initiative freed up $2.25 million to chip away at the state’s backlog of rape kits, requiring them all to be inventoried, and for registered sex offenders who have dodged providing their DNA to finally do so.

Forensic scientists then pass their DNA evidence along to private genetic genealogy companies using public databases. Ferguson notes neither genealogists nor law enforcement officers have access to specific genetic data, just the results from matches within the database.

1995 Kitsap County murder

FOX 13 News previously reported the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office found a match for the DNA left behind in the murder of 61-year-old Patricia Lorraine Barnes.

Barnes was found naked in a ditch, partially covered by a sleeping bag, with two bullet wounds in her head.

A cigarette butt left at the crime scene provided a critical DNA sample that sat in CODIS for more than 20 years before forensic genetic genealogy testing in 2021. Forensic scientists built a profile that matched Douglas K. Krohne, a man with an extensive criminal record in Washington in the 1980s and 1990s.

Krohne died in 2016, so authorities closed the case.

2003 McLeary rape

The Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office investigated the rape of a teenage girl in 2003. Authorities say a 17-year-old girl parked her car at home, when an unknown man abducted her, taped her head and heads and bound her legs, then threw her in his trunk and drove to a remote location.

The man reportedly raped her, then drove her back to near her home, and said if she told anyone what happened, "her dad would be dead and the house would be burned down and the rest of her life would be miserable." She managed to get back home and tell her father, who called police.

Authorities took DNA samples from her, but could not match it to anyone in CODIS.

As there was no suspect, deputies issued an arrest warrant for "John Doe" and the case went cold.

When the Attorney General’s Office was approached in 2020 to fund forensic genealogical testing for state cold cases, they funded a private lab $5,000 to analyze the DNA sample.

Scientists created a DNA profile and then uploaded it to a public family tree database. Several suspects’ names were generated from the results, one of them being Paul Bieker, who lived near the survivor’s home at the time.

Law enforcement had to follow up with the investigation, independently working to match Bieker’s DNA to the DNA sample collected in 2003.

The Washington State Patrol Crime Lab confirmed the DNA results—a match so accurate, a 2021 motion to the court reported the chances of the DNA not being Bieker’s were "one in 35 quadrillion."

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2003, 2004 Pullman home invasion

In 2003, a man broke into a home in Pullman and sexually assaulted a woman at gunpoint three times. In 2004, a man broke into an apartment where two women lived, tied up one and raped the other.

Forensic genetic genealogy testing matched evidence to the DNA of Kenneth Downing.

Spokane Police arrested Downing in Elk, Washington. Downing pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree rape in July 2022, and will be sentenced on Aug. 19. Downing faces between 17–23 years in prison.