Mass DNA test nets murder suspect

(This article is reprinted from the May 3, 1998 issue of the San Diego Union--Tribune.  Thanks to Susan Lindgren, San Diego Police Department for the submission.)

Associated Press

Frankfurt, Germany � Police using genetic evidence to hunt for an 11--year--old girl's killer said yesterday they had netted a confession following voluntary DNA testing of 16,400 local men � the largest such mass genetic testing to date.

A 30--year--old mechanic and previously convicted rapist was arrested Friday in northwestern Germany after his DNA matched evidence found at the scene of the rape, stabbing and strangling of Christina Nytsch.

He then confessed to the crimes, police said.

The girl disappeared March 16 on her way home from an indoor swimming pool, and her body was found five days later in woods near her home in Struecklingen, a village of about 3,500 people near the Dutch border.

The suspect, from a neighboring town and the father of three children, also confessed to the January 1996 rape of another 11--year--old girl said Hans--Juergen Thuraus, police chief in nearby Cloppenburg.

Police did not release the suspect's name, but local residents and media reports said it was Ronny Rieken.  He was detained pending charges of murder, rape, and abduction.

�I'm happy he's been arrested, but on the other hand, our daughter will never return,� the girl's father, Manfred Nytsch, said in a TV interview.  �The important thing is this guy is gone and maybe there can be a little peace in this neighborhood.�

The suspect was among the thousands of men in the region who voluntarily supplied samples for DNA testing last month for the investigation into Christina's death.

Police had used newspaper announcements to summon men from the suspected age group of 18 to 30 to have their mouths swabbed with cotton to collect saliva samples.

DNA from a knife at the scene of Christina's slaying had matched DNA from semen taken from the girl raped in 1996.  Based on the girl's shaky description of her attacker, police decided to screen men ages 18--30.

Untried in the United States, voluntary, blanket DNA testing has been used only occasionally in Europe, mostly as a last resort after a long investigation and usually in communities of a few thousand people or fewer.

But German police based in Cloppenburg started collecting saliva samples within weeks of the killing.

The suspect's sample proved a match.  Police said they had been tailing him for about a month before his arrest at his Elisabethfehn home, about four miles from the girl's village.

Another genetic fingerprint was taken from him and analyzed overnight, and, it confirmed the match, Thuraus said.




This article was printed in �THE PRINT�
Volume 14(4) July/August 1998, pg 6
and has been obtained from the online library provided by the

Southern California Association of Fingerprint Officers