TOLEDO, Ohio — 11 Investigates has learned that several sets of unknown DNA profiles at the heart of the investigation into the 2011 murders of Lisa Straub and Johnny Clarke are being re-examined by state forensics experts.
The Lucas County Sheriff's Office confirmed that the DNA samples are being examined to determine if they can be used to create familial DNA profiles.
Genetic genealogy is an advanced forensic technique that has been used multiple times in recent years to solve cold cases. In 2018, it was used to convict serial killer Joseph James DeAngelo, known as the Golden State Killer, who is believed to be responsible for at least 13 murders and more than 50 rapes dating back to the early 1970s. Investigators uploaded the killer's DNA profile into an ancestry database, which allowed genealogists to construct multiple family trees, one of which eventually led to DeAngelo.
The technique has not been used by the Lucas County Sheriff's Office, but it was used by the Toledo Police Department to lead to the arrests of Jacob and Jenna Cisneros in the "Baby Doe" case in 2019.
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In that case, TPD and the Cold Case Investigative Unit at the Lucas County Prosecutor's Office submitted DNA samples to AdvanceDNA, a genetic genealogy firm. The firm used ancestry databases to confirm the infant was genetically related to the husband and wife.
Sam Williams was convicted in 2012 of killing Straub and Clarke after his DNA was found on a cigarette at the crime scene. However, investigators believe several other people may be involved.
The couple was found dead on Jan. 31, 2011, in the kitchen of a Longacre Lane home in Holland. They were found with bags over their faces. Duct tape was wrapped tightly around their necks.
DNA testing performed by the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation identified several sets of unknown DNA at the scene:
- DNA from unknown female #1 was found on duct tape around Clarke's ankles.
- Two unknown DNA samples were found on the tape around Clarke's wrists. One of the samples was from a male, though the second set could not be determined.
- Unknown male DNA was found on the tape around Clarke's neck, though it could not be determined if it was from the same person found on the DNA on the wrist tape.
- Hairs found inside the pocket of Clarke's sweatpants were identified as coming from unknown female #2 and unknown female #3.
- DNA from unknown female #4 and an unknown male were found on a smashed cell phone inside the home.
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Investigators collected DNA from dozens of people who knew Clarke and Straub. The only positive hits were on Williams and Cameo Pettaway, whose DNA was found on the same cigarette as Williams' DNA. Judge James Bates threw out the case against Pettaway, saying that the cigarette could have been placed there by anyone.
There are several concerns with the unknown DNA. In some cases, there were incomplete profiles, meaning the sample simply wasn't clean enough to build a full profile. Other samples were used during the initial testing and there may not be enough to do additional testing. Investigators have also warned that the DNA found on the duct tape could have been left behind from the factory during the production process.
The sheriff's department continues to receive tips related to the case. If anyone has information about the case, even if they believe it is insignificant, they are asked to call Crime Stoppers at 419-255-1111.