Authorities hunt for DNA evidence to close a cold case

As crews seek to bring closure to a family after more than two decades, they are finding their work to identify the victim increasingly tricky. But an expert said DNA testing might lead authorities to a solution.

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Detective Kurt Mehl, along with search crews, is not giving up on that cold case that occurred 24-years ago. They are searching for answers to find Christine Flahive’s killer.

With new tips, authorities have gone deep into the woods, searching for signs of human remains and collecting evidence to send for testing.

“We have some soil samples,” said Mehl at the search scene.

Lebrun shows the soil samples turning pink, indicating blood. WINK News photo.
Lebrun shows the soil samples turning pink, indicating blood. WINK News photo.

“You see how it’s turning pink?” Berthie Lebrun, a senior at FGCU, said in a lab about the samples. “This would definitely say that you have blood.”

But in such a dated case, using blood evidence to confirm it is Flahive’s isn’t an option.

“The basic problem is going to be finding that bone,” said Dr. Sulekha Coticone, chair of the Department of Chemistry & Physics at FGCU, “and then actually extracting that DNA.”

Coticone said getting DNA from bones is the most difficult as they degrade over time with all the minerals that are present. The calcium and phosphate that makes up the bones can show a ‘no’ DNA result in testing.

Further impeding their work is the effects of two decades of Southwest Florida weather. But, despite all the obstacles that may come during DNA testing, Mehl still maintains it is worth a try to bring a close to this cold case.

Reporter:Taylor Petras
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