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MCPD Use New DNA Technology to Create Composite of Suspect in 1992 Murder

The body of 57-year-old James Essel was found inside the Sugarloaf Mountain Market in Comus, by a customer, on the evening of Sunday, March 22, 1992. Essel had been stabbed multiple times. Over the course of the 25 years since the crime, Montgomery County Police not stopped investigating this crime, but they have also not been able make an arrest in this case.

At a press conference on Monday, Montgomery County Police unveiled new technology they can use to help investigate unsolved cases — DNA Phenotyping. MCPD detectives have recently sought the services of Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company based in Virginia that specializes in DNA phenotyping: the process of predicting physical appearance and ancestry from unidentified DNA evidence. Using DNA evidence, in the Essel case blood left by the suspect at the homicide scene, Parabon’s Shapshot DNA Phenotyping Service has produced a composite (referred to as a Snapshot composite) depicting how the suspect in this case may have looked.

Last year, MCPD issued release and called for the public’s help with this case. Mark Janney, and cold case detective with MCPD said the press release led to a number of tips, and each was followed up, but in each case the suspect was eliminated through the use or DNA testing.

“We were back at ground zero with the case,” said Janney. Because investigators had the DNA on this case, MCPD thought this was a good case to work with Parabon. “We felt it was a good case to enlist the help of Parabon with, they were able to analyze the DNA and come up with a composite of the subject. We also had them do an age-enhanced composite for 25 years later because we don’t know the age of the suspect at the time of the murder.”