How DNA, genetic genealogy led to arrest in 1997 cold case killing of 28-year-old Georgia woman: Police

iStock/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- Twenty-one years after a 28-year-old woman was found dead in her Georgia bedroom, DNA and genetic genealogy have led to a suspect's arrest, authorities said.

Jerry Lee is accused of killing 28-year-old marketing professional and church youth counselor Lorrie Ann Smith in her home in 1997, police said.

When Lee was identified, he was still living less than a mile away from the victim, Fulton County Police Lt. Twanesa Howard told ABC News.

The case dates back to the morning of May 25, 1997, when Smith's parents made a gruesome discovery: their daughter was dead in her bedroom, shot several times in the back, the Fulton County Police said.

Her father, James Smith, had gone to wake his daughter up for church, he told ABC Atlanta affiliate WSB last year.

When he opened the door "she was in her blood on the floor," he said. "I thought that was the end of me right there."

Smith fought back during the attack and "a significant amount of the suspect’s blood was found in the home," police said.

As authorities investigated, they found no sign of forced entry, robbery or sexual assault.

Years went by without an arrest. Then this year, through genetic genealogy testing, police found a familial match to the suspect, Howard said. As that match was narrowed down, police identified Lee as the closest living relative; no other relatives lived in that area at that time, Howard said.

Police obtained a search warrant to collect the DNA of Lee, who was was still living less than a mile away from the victim.

Lee's DNA was collected and submitted to state investigators, who compared his DNA to the DNA from the crime scene. A match was found.

Lee had no felony criminal record, Howard said. In Georgia only a convicted felon's DNA is entered into the system, she said.

"Despite a reward of more than $30,000 and DNA tests conducted on more than 100 individuals over the last 21 years, police had been unable to positively identify the suspect until this week," Fulton County Police said in a news release.

Lee was arrested at a hotel in Alabama and then brought to Georgia on Thursday and booked at the Fulton County Jail.

He was charged with murder, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony, according to records.

He was due to make his first court appearance on Friday. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.

"We have some relief," the Smith family said in a statement to WSB. "One chapter has closed, but there are new ones opening with trials, sentencing and all that we will be learning about the next phase of the process."

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Sheriff asks public to help in ’emergency search’ for missing 3-year-old boy in North Carolina

Sheriff asks public to help in 'emergency search' for missing 3-year-old boy in North CarolinaChalabala/iStock(CRAVEN COUNTY, N.C.) -- Authorities are urging people to help them in "an emergency search" for a missing 3-year-old boy in North Carolina.

"We are doing everything we can to find this child," Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes told reporters Tuesday night. "We are utilizing all resources at our disposal."

Casey Lynn Hathaway went missing from the backyard of his grandmother's home Tuesday afternoon, Hughes said, according to ABC New Bern affiliate WCTI.

NEW SEARCH FOR CASEY HATHAWAY AT 7:30 AM WEDNESDAY: The Craven Sheriff's Office is asking all interested volunteers to meet near intersection of Aurora & Toler roads in Ernul and check in with law enforcement for an assignment of an area to search. (From @DaishaJonesWCTI) pic.twitter.com/2SbQiFAtq0

— Merrilee Moore (@mmooreofficial) January 23, 2019

SEARCH FOR CASEY HATHAWAY:
Authorities remain on scene this morning off Toler Rd where 3-yr-old Casey Hathaway went missing. Craven Sheriff's Office says they are in an "emergency search." pic.twitter.com/zaIRjz89yH

— Merrilee Moore (@mmooreofficial) January 23, 2019

Casey was playing with two other children, and when those kids came inside without Casey, the grandmother and others spent 45 minutes searching before calling 911, authorities said, according to WCTI.

Authorities are asking people to check their property, cars and storage sheds for Casey, the sheriff's office said.

"We want these folks in the community -- the Cayton community, the Ernul community -- to certainly keep an ear out," the sheriff told reporters. "We've got well over 100 volunteers that have come here and we don't want to utilize all of these resources at one time if come tomorrow we're still having this search and rescue effort and we've run out of resources."

Casey has blonde hair and brown eyes. He stands at 28 inches tall and weighs 25 pounds, the sheriff's office said.

Anyone with information is urged to call the Craven County Sheriff's Office at 252-633-0498 or the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation at 919-662-4500.

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