IR TV Review: THE GENETIC DETECTIVE – EPISODE 2 (“Hunt For The Runaway Killer”) [ABC]

The aspect of “The Genetic Detective” is fitting puzzle pieces but knowing how to decode. In Episode 2, “Hunt For The Runaway Killer”, the aspect of a cold case reflects through many aspects of a serial offender. A mother and her daughter were murdered in farmland Missouri while the father and son were working on their farm. The son returns to find them both in different positions shot in the head. His sister had been tied up with extension cord. His mother face down on the floor. While DNA was found (the murders took place in 1998), DNA tracking was nowhere near where it needed to be. The DNA broke down. About 10 years later they did connect it to another crime far away in South Carolina but not enough to make a match. The case sat cold for many years. CeCe Moore, known as The Genetic Detective was brought in when a organization/lab out of Memphis decided to connect cold cases with some backlogged rape kits which had been sitting in storage waiting for analysis but needing funding. The thinking being that certain markers could connect this offender/killer who apparently kept moving around with other criminal investigations. The breakdown of every case is interesting but it is seeing where the puzzle diverges. The eye opening aspect was when CeCe comes upon in the back trace which plateaus in the 1880s, she finds double cousins where two brothers of one family married two sisters of another. So the DNA pool was doubled which created a past parallel structure.

There was also a police sketch that was vague from a person the assailant attacked not long after the original Missouri murders. It was through news articles at that point that CeCe was able to verify through a photo of the offender connecting him with his daughter. What is interesting in the reveal is that CeCe admits that the killer moved around a lot but his life path was complicated. He eventually committed suicide when he was cornered in a hotel in Missouri (it is not clear if he was alone or not). The body is exhumed and the DNA matched. The disappointing aspect is not knowing motivation,if any, behind the Missouri murders or some of the ones after it since the MOs seemed to change. CeCe visits the daughter, not to confront but just to talk (likely primarily just to create closure). The lady worries and reflects about genetic predisposition whereas when CeCe visits the son whose mother and sister were killed, he is living in the same farm house. He says that even though the mystery was solved, the thoughts and trauma will never go away. This kind of balanced approach brings a texture to the show that CeCe relates in saying that data only means so much. It is important to see that consequence and reflection on the ground


By Tim Wassberg

IR TV Review: THE GENETIC DETECTIVE – EPISODE 1 (“The Case Of The Missing Lovebirds”) [ABC]

The aspect of genetic technology has found its way to the forefront of technology and continues to grow. Where these kind of investigative pieces are usually grounds within 20/20 or narrative fiction procedurals, “The Genetic Detective”, which was made in conjunction with ABC News, plays like a more reality based CSI but through the use of computers. The trick is to show the inherent path of DNA and make it accessible while not losing the process of the problem solving. What is great is that each episode speaks to the path of family and how it breaks down. Genetic Genealogist CeCe Moore, who once began as a model but returned to her love in genetics, was one of the first people to help move the structure of family trees to backtrack genetics before the advent of consumer DNA testing which only strengthened the texture of what she did and does. Adoptees started coming to her to find biological parents through this process. She was eventually brought in with a Washington based firm who helped her realize the bridge between privacy and investigation and how to work with law enforcement in this way. When she helped track the Golden State Killer, it opened the door t other possibilities on cold cases.

The aspect of cold cases now can take on a whole new meaning as long as the DNA of certain cases in kept The first one she investigates (seen in Episode 1: “The Case Of The Missing Lovebirds”) was in Snohomish County in Washington State in the case of a double murder that happened to a young couple where they were killed in separate places. The killer had covered up many aspects but not his DNA. Because the incident took place in the mid 90s, the technology was not quite in play yet. The explanation that Moore offers about how the certain genetic markers have to match up is fascinating. Without giving too much away, it shows how the DNA database that has grown in the United States really can aid with the process. CeCe Moore does a great job of representing the science while showing the path of data and analytics in this new investigative world. And it brings a different perspective to this kind of show which in many instances are done on smaller or more abstract cablers. With the texture and intricacy of ABC News and the ability to integrate graphics for maximum effect while still making it palpable, this investigative series shows the process without it seeming like school work. It also provides the inherent basis for inspiring a new generation of STEM students, especially women to pursue a path that fascinates them as it did with CeCe.


By Tim Wassberg