The Forever Witness
- How DNA and Genealogy Solved a Cold Case Double Murder
- Length: 10 hrs
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After thirty years, Detective Jim Scharf arrested a teenage couple's murderer—and exposed a looming battle between the pursuit of justice and the right to privacy.
When Tanya Van Cuylenborg and Jay Cook were murdered during a trip to Seattle in the 1980s, detectives had few leads. The murder weapon was missing. No one witnessed any suspicious activity. And there was only a single handprint on the outside of the young couple’s van. The detectives assumed Tanya and Jay were victims of a serial killer—but without any leads, the case seemed forever doomed.
In deep-freeze, long-term storage, biological evidence from the crime scenes sat waiting. Meanwhile, California resident CeCe Moore began her lifelong fascination with genetic genealogy. As DNA testing companies rapidly grew in popularity, she discovered another use for the technology: solving crimes. When Detective Jim Scharf decided to send the cold case’s decades-old DNA to Parabon NanoLabs, he hoped he would bring closure to the Van Cuylenborg and Cook families. He didn't know that he and Moore would make history.
Anyone can submit a saliva sample to learn about their ancestry. But what happens after the results of these tests are uploaded to the internet? As lawyers, policymakers, and police officers fight over questions of consent and privacy, the implications of Scharf’s case become ever clearer. Approximately 250,000 murders in the United States remain unsolved today. We have the tools to catch many of these killers—but what is the cost?
“Some detectives never give up, and in this expert retelling, you'll follow Jim Scharf as he attempts to crack the coldest of cases: A golden young couple abducted and murdered in Washington state in 1987, with almost no clues left behind. This book is that rare thing, terrifying true crime told with a beating heart.” —Maureen Callahan, New York Times bestselling author of American Predator
“In this brilliantly told, addictively readable book, Edward Humes reminds us that the term “cold case” is misleading, that unsolved murders simmer for decades with angry life and grief and the long-shadow of justice denied. And he also reminds us to hope that the answers to our most stubborn mysteries can yet be found if we simply refuse to give up on them.” —Deborah Blum, New York Times bestselling author of The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz-Age New York
“The Forever Witness is a remarkable achievement in true crime reporting, as Edward Humes brilliantly guides readers through a cold case investigation that’s smart, suspenseful, and on the cutting edge of forensic science. This book will keep you reading well into the night.” —Gilbert King, Pulitzer-prize winning author of Beneath a Ruthless Sun and Devil in the Grove