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June 24, 2020                                                                            C
olleen Fitzpatrick, PhD
                                                                                                   Identifinders International                                                                                                                                   714-296-3065                                                                                              

Identifinders International Selected
as Fifth Place in DNA Hit of the Year Competition
Pioneering Work on Sarah Yarborough Case Earns International Recognition

Fountain Valley, CA – Identifinders International, in conjunction with the King Co. WA Sheriff’s Office, has been awarded Fifth Place in the Gordon Thomas Honeywell (GTH) DNA Hit of the Year Competition out of a field of 50 entries from 20 countries for their pioneering work on the 1991 Sarah Yarborough homicide, the first case where genetic genealogy was used to generate forensic intelligence. Y-STR analysis was initially used in 2011 to discover a possible last name for the assailant; the case was solved in October 2019 using autosomal SNP testing. The award was announced this morning at the Virtual HIDS Conference sponsored by Thermo Fisher Scientific.
The murder of the well-liked high school drill team member frustrated King County law enforcement for nearly 30 years and deeply affected the tight knit community of Federal Way, Washington.  The landmark use of genetic genealogy leading to the arrest of Patrick Leon Nicholas as a suspect in the murder revealed that Sarah’s killer could have been identified using CODIS shortly after the crime, but holes in the system had allowed him to avoid detection for nearly three decades.
“The King County Sheriff’s Office gets high marks for their forward-looking approach in using genetic genealogy back in 2011, when it had not yet been seriously considered for cold case work,” said Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick, President of Identifinders International.
“The case had a profound impact on my life, so much so, that I postponed my retirement because of it.  As I familiarized myself with the important pioneering work of Dr. Fitzpatrick and Identifinders International, I was convinced that genetic genealogy held the key to solving the case,” commented Det Jim Allen (Ret.), Major Crimes Unit, King Co. Sheriff’s Office.
This is the second time Identifinders International has been recognized in the Gordon-Thomas – Honeywell competition.  In 2018, the company placed fifth for their work in 2015 on the Phoenix Canal Murders, the first case solved using genetic genealogy.
Identifinders International is a fee-based forensic service that works with law enforcement agencies, coroners, and medical examiners to apply genetic genealogy Y-DNA and autosomal SNP analysis to cold case homicides, sexual assaults, and John and Jane Doe cases. For more information, please visit