Massachusetts police hail DNA breakthrough in Vanessa Marcotte murder arrest

Jen Offord
DNA ageing

Massachusetts police announced on Saturday (15 April) they had made an arrest in connection with the killing of a New York woman who was found dead close to her mother's home after she had gone out for a jog.

According to the Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr the lead suspect of the killing of Vanessa Marcotte was identified as a result of DNA profiling that enabled detectives to generate an accurate physical description of the man.

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The body of Marcotte, 27, was found in woods near her mother's house. Police said they expected her killer to have scratch marks on his face and body. Using DNA recovered from Marcotte's hands, Early said they were able to create a profile of the suspect.

Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Early said: "We're very comfortable that we've got Vanessa Marcotte's killer."

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He added: "It's through her determined fight and her efforts that we obtained the DNA of her killer."

Using the DNA sample recovered during Marcotte's post-mortem examination, detectives believed the man responsible was a light-skinned Hispanic man, aged around 30 with an athletic build.

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After witnesses also reported the sighting of a dark-coloured SUV in the area around the time of the attack, when a policeman spotted a man matching the profile compiled of Marcotte's killer driving a similar vehicle, he took the vehicle's number plate and followed up.

Angelo Colon-Oritz was later arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault, aggravated assault and battery as well as assault with the intent to rape. Further charges are expected.

Though DNA has been used for more than 20 years in criminal investigations through matching that found at a crime scene with information held in a government database, phenotyping – using DNA to determine physical characteristics – is a more recent and controversial technique. Scientists have criticised the technique, which they say is not always accurate.

Marcotte was one of three women in the US to have been killed while out running, within a nine-day period in August last year.

Runner's World magazine consequently conducted research that found 3% of female runners had been physically assaulted while running, while 30% said they had been followed while running.

Vanessa Marcotte

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