GUESTS: CECE MOORE & EVE LAZARUS
– DR. KAYLEE BYERS
[TW: murder, mention of suicide, violent imagery]
In order to seek genomic justice, you have to get out of the lab and into the field.
Dr. Kaylee Byers grabs a magnifying glass and a deerstalker cap as she goes to the scene of one of North America’s oldest cold case murder mysteries, the “Babes in the Woods.” This over 70-year-old unsolved case has finally had some closure due to emerging forensic genomic science.
But while looking for leads, Dr. Byers spots a bright red thread pointing her to questions about how our genomics are being accessed by law enforcement. How can genomics bring justice to unsolved mysteries? And at what cost are we willing to pay to find answers?
Genetic Genealogist, Cece Moore, from ABC’s Prime time series The Genetic Detective helps connect the dots. And partnering with us to get to the bottom of one of Canada’s oldest mysteries is true crime author and podcaster Eve Lazarus from Cold Case Canada.
Listen to Nice Genes! wherever you get your podcasts, brought to you by Genome British Columbia.
Warning. This episode contains details of murder mysteries, suicide, and ongoing investigations some listeners may feel uncomfortable with.
“Unearthing one of North America’s coldest murder mysteries, the ‘Babes in the Woods.’”
“The Genetic Detective, how a hobby became a tool for solving cold cases.”
“‘By any means necessary.’ Is our DNA being used by law enforcement?”
Dr. Kaylee Byers: In today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about some details that listeners may find disturbing. If you’re listening to Nice Genes! for science stuff, but would rather skip stories about difficult subject matter, including ongoing criminal investigations or murder, then you may want to sit this one out.
All right, if you’re still around, here’s our very own true crime episode of Nice Genes! Today, I’m out of the lab and into the field. So right now, Victoria and I are walking on a gravel trail in Stanley Park, little chillier than usual. I’m hiking along a trail over dead branches and between Western hemlock and red cedar trees as tall as buildings. And why am I here? We come across a few signs warning us about coyotes denning in the area, so we are in good… Well, I’ve thrown on my deerstalker cap and magnifying glass, because in this episode, we are solving a murder mystery. I’m on my way to an old crime scene. Let’s see what are the cues? And, thankfully, I have a lead.
Eve Lazarus: Hi Kaylee
Dr. Kaylee Byers: Hello. To help me make some sense of where I am.Read Transcript
Eve Lazarus: I’m Eve Lazarus, I’m an author and a podcaster. Okay, an author and podcaster.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: Eve is helping me find answers to one of North America’s oldest cold cases. And it takes place right here in Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia.
Eve Lazarus: It’s right on the trail, just past Beaver Lake on the way to Lions Gate bridge. Back in 1953, it would’ve been pretty remote.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: And the name of this most infamous case? The Babes in the Woods.
Eve Lazarus: I’ve been obsessed by this case since the late 1980s. It’s hard not to think about Stanley Park, as, in one hand it’s such a beautiful crown jewel of Vancouver, on the other, it’s kind of like this Hansel and Gretel murder mystery, where the bodies are buried.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: What happened back in 1953?
Eve Lazarus: Well, it was January, so it was the middle of January 1953, and there was a Vancouver Parks Board crew, and they were clearing dense bush in this part of Stanley Park, fairly normal work that they would’ve been doing. And Albert Tom was going about his day, and he stepped on a lump that was buried under a bundle of leaves, and he heard a loud crack. So, he started raking away these leaves, and he found this old coat. And as he lifted up this old coat, he saw part of a skeleton.
He called the VPD [Vancouver Police Department] and two police officers arrived at the scene. Basically, what they did was that they just used their hands to scrape off all these rotting leaves, and to unearth the skeletons of these two small children. And the roots from the trees had grown around and up through the bones. And-
Dr. Kaylee Byers: Oh my.
Eve Lazarus: Yeah. It must have been… Imagine how frightening that would’ve been. And they found quite a few other things sort of around the scene. There was a adult woman’s shoe. They found a pair of goggles, probably, that had something to do with the aviator helmets that the kids had been wearing. There was a metal lunch box that still had some of the food that was decomposed inside it. And I guess the most sort of interesting part of it, the murder weapon was still there. It was a small hatchet, kind of an ax that roofers would’ve used, and found that the blade of the hatchet fit into the dents on the skulls.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: How long did they estimate it was that the children had been dead before they found them?
Eve Lazarus: About six years. They were six layers of leaves apparently. And they were never identified or they weren’t identified, and so they quickly became known in the media as ‘The Babes in the Woods’.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: Some listeners may have already heard of this case, but some recent developments have brought semblance of closure to the many twists and turns of this over 70 year old mystery. But just like in science, answers often lead to even more questions.
Eve Lazarus: I don’t think I could sum it up in a sentence. The VPD [Vancouver Police Department] decided to use genetic genealogy to try to solve the case.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: Answering the biggest question of this case, who were ‘The Babes in the Woods’ raises an even bigger question, how far are we willing to go to solve some of the most difficult and complex criminal cases? Are we willing to surrender our personal genetic information, the details of who we are on the most basic level? Strap in, because we’re about to investigate a case with a big genomic question mark.
You’re listening to Nice Genes! A show all about unraveling the fascinating world of genomics sponsored by Genome British Columbia. I’m your host, Dr. Kaylee Byers. And today I’m trading in my lab coat for a deerstalker detective cap, which, frankly, I think I can pull off.
As you heard off the top, we’ll be investigating The Babes in the Woods case to explore how genomics is helping to solve murder mysteries and cold cases. We’ll be unlocking answers about the case as we go along. But you may be wondering how genomics intersects with forensics.
Eve Lazarus: Sorry, I’ll just wait till I goes through.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: No. And knowing that, I mean, how does that… While I was talking to Eve Lazarus, we discussed how genomics is being used to investigate and solve mysteries that have been cold for decades.
Eve Lazarus: One of the ones that really intrigued me was the case of two youngsters, so Jay Cook, 20- year- old boy, and Tanya Van Cuylenborg, his girlfriend. And they were going to Seattle overnight on an errand for Jay’s father. And they were murdered in Washington state in 1989. And it went unsolved for decades, until they put it through genetic genealogy. And it was actually CeCe Moore that came up with a name in about four hours, I believe.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: Our next lead, hello, CeCe Moore. Thank you for joining me today.
CeCe Moore: Thanks so much for having me.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: CeCe, you are what’s called a genetic genealogist. Can you tell us what that is?
CeCe Moore: A genetic genealogist uses someone’s DNA to learn more about their family history and their genetic heritage. So, it could be a known person or it could be an unknown person.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: And how did you get into doing this kind of work? What’s your genetic genealogy origin story?
CeCe Moore: Well, when I started doing this, it really wasn’t much of a thing. I was a genealogy hobbyist, and I’ve always loved genetics. They started offering DNA tests for genealogical purposes in 2000. And it was shortly after that I was working on my own genealogy, and so I tested about 40 of my own family members. And what happened is I told a scientist at 23andMe about my research, and he said, “You should start a blog.” Blog, I hardly knew what a blog was, but I took his advice. And that really was the beginning of changing my life. I was writing this blog and people started looking at me as an expert.
And so, when people took a consumer DNA test and found out that, for instance, their father was not their biological father. Or adoptees had not been able to find their biological parents just through the documents that they received. Then they were asking me, “Could genetic genealogy help me with this?” So, I really turned my focus away from finding these long dead ancestors and tried to see if it would work to find living people, or recently living people.
And it was a huge success. We started being able to help people identify their biological parents and grandparents. Those techniques that I started developing way back around 2011 are now the basis of what we’re using for identifying Jane and John Does and also violent criminals. And so we’re reverse engineering, the identity of someone based on their DNA.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: I’m curious as to how all of those things have sort of intersected where you were using genetic information to solve cold cases.
CeCe Moore: I was convinced of the power of genetic genealogy very quickly, but it took quite a while, because when I started, there was almost nobody in these databases. In fact, there was only one database doing this when I first started, which was 23andMe. And so that was really the first step. Once we got enough people in the databases, where we started to hit critical mass, then it became very apparent how powerful this tool was. And by the time that happened, it was too late to put Pandora back in the box, so to speak.
And so, I was aware that we could use this for any type of human identification, including law enforcement and unidentified remains. There were some very forward thinking law enforcement officials that would read that and reach out to me and say, “Well, if you can help find the biological parents of a foundling, an abandoned baby, couldn’t you do that for my cold cases?”
Dr. Kaylee Byers: CeCe Moore was the brains behind the first ever jury convictions using forensic genealogy, that was from the case Eve Lazarus mentioned earlier.
CeCe Moore: Detectives, DAs, coroners started contacting me way back in 2014 about this.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: It began back in 1987 in Washington state. It’s Thanksgiving Day, homicide detective Rick Bart was investigating the death of two people, just Northeast of Seattle. One body was discovered under a bridge that crosses over the Snoqualmie River, and the other was found in another county, near a creek. It was a young couple Jay Cook and his girlfriend, Tanya Van Cuylenborg. They had come down from British Columbia, Canada running an errand for Jay’s father. On the following day, authorities found their van near a bus terminal and a bar. A few of their personal items were stored behind the bar, along with gloves and equipment that was suspected to be connected to their deaths.
Bart, the homicide detective, was suspicious that they may be looking for a serial offender, someone that had committed this type of crime before. But none of the leads they had could fully explain the important details about the case. Years went by, the trail went cold. Public appeals were of little interest, even including a tip from a psychic. And early DNA forensics, wasn’t able to identify a suspect either.
But fast forward to 2018, over 30 years after the bodies were discovered, the police decided to try another route. They called up Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company. They handed over DNA, recovered from the crime scene to Parabon.
CeCe Moore: Analyzing hundreds of thousands of genetic markers called snips, which is called snip genotyping. And so they created that file. They uploaded it to GEDmatch, which is the only database we were allowed to use back in 2018. They’re taking that crime scene DNA, that unknown perpetrator’s DNA, and comparing it against everyone in the database, who’s in the law enforcement matching pool.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: And Parabon, they gave it to CeCe.
CeCe Moore: And I was waiting for the matches to appear. So I kept checking on a Friday night, I stayed up later and later and later checking, hoping to get those matches. I finally gave up and fell asleep. And first thing in the morning when I opened my eyes, I thought, “Oh, I wonder if the matches are ready.” So, I kind of rolled out of bed, grabbed my laptop, which was sitting on the floor next to me, logged into GEDmatch, and there was the match list. We’re looking for these chunks of DNA that are identical between two people. And then we’re looking to see, where did they inherit those from. Who is the common ancestor that is responsible for that shared DNA?
When I woke up and saw that match list on a Saturday morning, we had two second cousin level matches at the top of that list. That’s really striking gold. I built the family tree of the first second cousin level match, and then the second. And so I built back to the great grandparent level. And then I flipped that tree upside down, did that reverse genealogy, where I build forward in time. And I very quickly found an obituary that linked a woman from one side of the tree from that top match’s family, to the second match’s family.
There was a male in there, and they married. And they had four children, only one was male. And we knew our perpetrator was male from his DNA. And therefore there was really only one person that was related to those matches at the right level. And I was so excited to see those top two matches were each sharing around three percent of their DNA with the unknown killer.
So, the one person who had the right mix to be Jay and Tanya’s killer was William Earl Talbott II. And I realized I was probably the only person in the world, other than him, that knew what he had done, that knew that he was Jay and Tanya’s killer. And so that was a really heavy burden to have. And I couldn’t wait to get that information to the wonderful detective that was involved in this case. So I had a pretty nervous couple of days thinking, what if I had a heart attack? What if something happened? I’m the only person in the world that’s got this very, very important information.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: A decades old case solved in just a few days, right from Cece’s living room. Police shadowed Talbott, after a coffee cup fell from the passenger side of his truck, they rushed over, grabbed the cup, and took it to the lab. They sequenced genetic material from the cup and compared it to the original DNA retrieved from the crime scene. They had a match.
CeCe Moore: I was relieved, because you still feel on pins and needles when you’re the one responsible for identifying someone.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: And there’s one other aspect of the story that I’m curious about, because early in the investigation, the detectives who were working the case were fairly sure that they were looking for someone who was a serial offender, someone who had done this kind of thing before. And using genealogy, they found someone who hadn’t, someone who wasn’t on their radar at all. And so how did this discovery change how investigators view who does and doesn’t commit this kind of act? Or how they should be thinking about solving it or these kinds of crimes?
CeCe Moore: I think this case, and many others that followed, showed that we are identifying perhaps a new type of criminal, one who perpetrates a very violent crime one time, and then appears to have never done it again, fades right back into society, often has a family, a career, is involved in their community. And William was more of hermit, so he wasn’t quite what we’re finding in many cases, where somebody appears to be this very normal person, and you would never imagine that they were capable of this type of crime. But I do think it’s opened the eyes of investigators.
The reason these cases are cold cases is usually because it is this type of person, the type of person who stayed under the radar, was never in the case file, because they’ve stayed completely under the radar, because apparently they’ve never perpetrated another crime like this. Their DNA’s not in the law enforcement database. They’ve never been arrested, in most cases. Where it appears to be just this horribly violent crime one time, and then the person never reoffends.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: That discovery led to the first ever jury conviction with forensic genealogy. But I want to be transparent, because the case was recently overturned in December of 2021, due to jury bias, although that bias didn’t have anything to do with the genealogy. But at this point in our story, we’ve come across one of the big ‘Q’s for this episode that goes beyond this one case. So Cece, this approach needs DNA, DNA that might be stored in public ancestry databases, and used in a way that people may not have understood that it would be used that way or for these purposes. What are the implications of doing this kind of work? How do you feel the public’s response has been to databases being used in this way by law enforcement?
CeCe Moore: I’m involved in some long term studies about the public’s opinion of the use of genetic genealogy for law enforcement cases. And there was a study that came out recently on yougov.org, I think it is. And it was really surprising to see that about a third of the people surveyed, of their 1,000 person pool, thought that investigative genetic genealogy should be used for all crimes. Now that we didn’t expect. Another third, approximately, thought it should just be used for violent crimes. And so there was well over half of the people, well, it was about two thirds of the people surveyed who were perfectly fine with investigative genetic genealogy. There was about a quarter that were not supportive of it. And then I think it was about 16% that were unsure. And so, yes, there are certainly some people that are concerned about it.
My stance on that is a couple of things. One, I think everyone should have the right to decide how their own DNA is used, and they need to be educated and informed to be able to make that choice. There’s a lot of fear mongering. There’s a lot of misconceptions and misinformation out there. I want to make sure that when they’re making a choice as to whether they support this or not, that they’re doing it on an educated basis. And if they still decide they don’t feel comfortable with it, then I am perfectly fine with that.
But as I mentioned early in this interview, Pandora came out of the box years ago. There was no attention being paid to what we were doing. If I think the public and potentially lawmakers had been aware of this incredibly powerful tool that us citizen scientists were building, maybe somebody would’ve stepped in sooner. But by the time the public really became aware of it, when it was started being used for law enforcement in spring of 2018, it was too late. This had already exploded. And so the decision’s already been made, whether people like it or not, it’s too late to stop this tool.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: The ability to use public genomic databases as a lead in to discovering suspects in cold cases has kept folks like CeCe Moore very busy. But does it extend beyond cold cases? What about current and ongoing investigations?
Speaker 4: I’m totally fine with us using DNA to figure out if somebody committed a murder or whatever.
Speaker 5: And if my genetics are being used to help solve a crime, I wouldn’t care, because I wouldn’t have committed a crime because I’m a good boy.
Speaker 6: But I do think using DNA to solve crimes is very helpful, because sometimes a fingerprint is unreadable, but a hair strand can tell you their entire history.
Speaker 7: The one thing I am concerned about in terms of privacy is when you do like a 23andMe or an ancestry check, for instance, and then you keep yourself in a database, and then for law enforcement to access it from there, that’s the part where I’m kind of… it gets really shady really quick. And I think that at the utmost importance that upholding that privacy is a top priority.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: You are listening to Nice Genes! A podcast, all about the fascinating world of genomics and the involving science behind it brought to you by Genome British Columbia. I’m Dr. Kaylee Byers, your host. And I have a quick favor to ask, if you like the show, hit follow on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your shows, and you can build your own genomics listening lab by recruiting a lab partner and telling a friend about us.
Sorry. You might lose me just for a second, I have to extend my parking.
Eve Lazarus: Oh, I see.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: So I’m coming back to Eve now, our guide through The Babes in the Woods case. It didn’t kick me. Oh, great. Okay, great.
Eve Lazarus: Great. Okay.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: As you heard before, the potential for genomics to solve cold cases started making headlines after genealogists like CeCe Moore were using it to make progress on cases that had been stuck for years. As you could imagine, back in 1953, the idea of using genomics wasn’t even on the radar. As we discussed in episode one, at that time, we were just discovering what DNA looked like. And even up until 2021, investigators had very little information on The Babes in the Woods case, they didn’t even know the identity of the two bodies that were found.
Eve Lazarus: Well, then you’ve got pretty rudimentary sort of crime scene. They put the bones and the rest of the remnants in a couple of cardboard boxes, and take them away. And there’s a pathologist and a medical doctor that are not trained in forensics, though. For some reason, someone had written down girl and boy, and that stuck. And this mistake that they’re a girl and boy put the whole police investigation down the wrong track for the next almost half a century. And I know that coroner had almost given up hope of ever having them identified, because the remains that they had were very frail, fragmented, small, and very old bone fragments.
So the VPD [Vancouver Police Department] decided to use genetic genealogy to try to solve the case. So just last year, they were able to get the DNA from those bone fragments that was able to be uploaded into GEDmatch, the open source genealogy data bank. That allowed the police to search those data banks, to see if they could find a familial DNA match. And they did.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: Okay. I’m just getting home from Stanley Park. All right, I’m just going to open up the police press release from this year on The Babes in the Woods case. Let’s see, okay, so the two children were Derek D’Alton and his brother, David, so that’s interesting. It appears that originally what they thought was a brother and sister were actually two brothers. It’s pretty incredible really that they were able to identify them at all, but also sad that it took so long.
Eve Lazarus: They had the DNA from their niece, and their great niece who had just decided to go looking for their relatives to these two lost uncles, and put their DNA in. And just before Diane had died, Diane was the older sister, the half sister, and she was 10 when they went missing. Her daughter had taken a swab to find out her ancestry, but her daughter had also put in her DNA to find her uncles. And it turned up that they were in fact related.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: That discovery helped provide a look into who Derek and David D’Alton may have been, and how they might have ended up in Stanley Park covered over with a coat and a hatchet lying next to them.
Eve Lazarus: And we know that Derek, definitely, and probably, David went to Henry Hudson Elementary School, because we’ve got the photo of Derek standing in the back row. But they did move around to several addresses in the neighborhood. Diane, the oldest sister, did tell the family that they were very poor, and she remembers times jumping out of the window, when the landlord came to collect the rent.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: I mean, they found quite a few things at the scene of the crime. They found the weapon. They found clothing on the children. They even had the little lunch box. I mean, did they have a lead suspect?
Eve Lazarus: They always thought it was a mother, and they still do. Always thought that the mother had taken the children into the woods that day and murdered them. And it was really rough back then in postwar period in Vancouver, it was a hard, tough, tough time for women, particularly single mothers. If they were able to find work at all, it would’ve been in jobs that didn’t pay very much, and certainly didn’t allow them to take care of children.
And when I was originally researching this case, I went to the Vancouver Police Department annual reports, and the original detective, Don Mackay, always believed that the mother had killed the children, and then probably gone into to Burrard Inlet and killed herself, so it was a murder suicide, up until February when they discovered the identities of The Babes in the Woods, and they found out that the mother actually lived till 1998, died at the age of 78. And clearly if she was the murderer, she did not kill herself.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: The family members that had sequenced their DNA had found some resolution on what had happened to their distant uncles, albeit with a more shocking answer than they originally expected.
So, CeCe we’ve been talking about folk’s genetic data and law enforcement having access to it. So, I’m curious about how laws and privacy practices around the use of genetic data differ between the US and Canada.
CeCe Moore: When I work at case in Canada, for instance, it is so much more difficult, because Canada has much stricter privacy laws for living people than the United States. Here [in the US], I can use people search databases, all types of information that is collected and sold about everybody in the US. And I can use that to piece families back together, to learn about living individuals. In Canada, that’s not allowed. So, it’s much more difficult to put these families back together when you get close to the recent day, so trying to find living individuals or recently living individuals.
And I sort of implied it, but I didn’t state it. We are not allowed to use the biggest consumer databases for law enforcement work. So there are about 40 million people that have taken consumer DNA tests now, but the majority of those people are in AncestryDNA, 23andMe, and MyHeritage DNA. They all have terms of service that forbid law enforcement’s use.
So we are limited to the two smallest databases, which are GEDmatch and FamilyTreeDNA. And so it’s really a big misconception that if you’re tested at AncestryDNA or 23andMe or MyHeritage that you’re helping law enforcement, because we aren’t allowed to compare against those databases.
But for both countries, it holds true that social media is a huge tool for me and all of my colleagues. If we didn’t have all this information that people are voluntarily putting out there on their social media, then we probably wouldn’t be able to use this tool very effectively. It’s a huge part of what we do. I mean, in the US, I think it’s just wrong that companies collect all this information about us and sell it. It’s a profit driven business. And I think Canada has much, much better rules and laws about that.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: Back in 2013, the Supreme Court upheld something called the Maryland DNA Collection Act. And that just essentially allowed some jurisdictions to take somebody’s DNA after arresting them, but without a conviction. And then that was later ruled unconstitutional. But since then all states have some rules on how they can compel someone’s DNA. So can you untangle what the distinction is between these laws and the work that you do is?
CeCe Moore: So the difference between the law enforcement databases and the databases we use for genetic genealogy is the law enforcement databases contained DNA that was compelled, that someone had to provide that DNA, because they had been arrested or convicted of a violent crime.
We’re using voluntarily provided DNA in the databases we use. And that’s why there’s different laws that would affect both of those. So in some states in the United States, you’re not allowed to use law enforcement databases for anything other than a direct match. Some other states allow what’s called familial DNA searching, where they can look for a first degree relative, so a parent, child, or a sibling in that database. And they have solved cases doing that.
Now, the reason that is regulated, but what we do is less regulated is because what we do is using these voluntarily provided samples. And so it doesn’t have the same type of regulation or considerations that these databases do that are using compelled DNA.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: So is compelled DNA where people are forced to give their DNA, essentially, versus voluntary.
CeCe Moore: Yes. And so compelled DNA can either be through a warrant, when they go to arrest somebody, they can compel them to provide their DNA. It could be after they’re convicted. So it depends on the jurisdiction in the United States whose DNA is able to be compelled. Some cases, you have to be convicted of a violent crime, but in some jurisdictions, you just have to be arrested for a violent crime.
One important point is that they cannot compel somebody’s DNA based on my genetic genealogy findings, they have to build a case outside of the genetic genealogy. And typically that means they are collecting abandoned DNA, testing it, and then getting the match before then they can go and get that compelled DNA sample from that person and arrest them.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: And that discarded DNA is like DNA on a coffee cup that someone threw on the ground.
CeCe Moore: It is, and there’s different laws about that. So that’s a really important precedent that is being set in the United States. We don’t want to see departments going out, using the genetic genealogy as the basis of a warrant to compel somebody’s DNA.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: Going beyond criminal cases, there is another function of genomics that I want to highlight. It’s also one that occupies much of CeCe’s time, and it brings us back to our Babes in the Woods case. As you heard earlier, the two boys had a sister, and later on a niece named Ally, although they wouldn’t be alive to know it. Ally had seen photos of the D’Alton boys in an old family album. The story she was told about them was that they had been taken by child services after their mother struggled to provide for them. So she took an ancestry test.
Eve Lazarus: Spat into a tube and sent it off to Ancestry, and hoped to find them still alive, because they’d still be in their early 80s.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: And if she could potentially meet them.
Eve Lazarus: So you can imagine it was a big shock when she found out the story.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: After the results came back, the family’s DNA became connected to the case of the two boys who lost their lives in Stanley Park. But Ally was originally looking for lost family members. And it’s exactly the point I want to explore next.
We started off this episode talking about The Babes in the Woods case, and this case sort of came to some kind of closure, because the family was originally looking for their relatives, these long lost family members. And I know you mentioned off the top doing some of this work. Can you tell us a little bit more about how this work transcends sort of the law enforcement space? How you are using that information or have used it along the lines of reuniting families?
CeCe Moore: In my steps toward working with law enforcement, very important step was going from working on my own genealogy and identifying long dead ancestors to helping people of an unknown parent, adoptees, donor conceived, foundlings, people who learned their father was not their biological father from taking a DNA test, which by the way, has happened to millions of people. And so I spent years helping people learn about their genetic heritage and potentially reunite with their biological relatives.
And so we have helped hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions now, find and reunite with their biological relatives through genetic genealogy. I personally have worked with thousands of people of unknown parentage to help them find their biological families and learn about their genetic heritage. So that’s an incredibly important part of what I’ve done, my legacy.
I will say that working with Jane and John Doe cases like Babes in the Woods is very similar to my work with people of unknown parentage. It’s providing answers and resolution. The difference is there’s never a happy ending or beginning with these very sad law enforcement cases. I’m reuniting families in death versus in life. I’m ever in a bad mood or get too down about these law enforcement cases, I can just log into my DNA detectives group on Facebook and read story after story, after story that are just so incredibly heartwarming.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: It’s clear that this isn’t just work for you, that you’re also really passionate about it. And I’m curious about whether there is anything in particular about genetic genealogy that just gets you really excited.
CeCe Moore: Well, I guess first of all, I should comment that I decided many years ago, a decade or more ago that I would never charge somebody to find their biological parents or grandparents, because I believe it’s a right. It should be a birthright for everybody to be able to have that knowledge. I was and am so passionate about genealogy and my own genetic genealogy, that I was shocked to find out that there were millions of adoptees and others who were denied that right often through the law. They weren’t allowed to know their biological and genetic heritage. And I just felt that that was wrong. And I decided to try to start righting that wrong case by case, never knowing it was going to turn into this huge movement, where millions of people would make those discoveries.
And so this was something I did purely out of passion. This career did not exist. It’s not something I could have grown up dreaming about. I read Nancy Drew. I was interested in detective work. I was interested in science. And so I want that to be inspirational to other people who maybe don’t know what they want to do, if they’re young. Or if they are in a job that is not fulfilling, that if they are able to follow their passion, they could potentially find something that is much more meaningful and fulfilling.
And it wasn’t easy. I made a lot of sacrifices to get here, but now I’m just so fortunate to be doing work that I love so much.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: CeCe, thank you so much for sharing your story with us today and thanks for being with us.
CeCe Moore: Well, thanks for having me.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: Despite the many mysteries and answers genomics can bring us, it can always lead to more questions.
Eve Lazarus: Leap ahead to this year, we know that the mother of The Babes in the Woods lived until she was 78 years old, and babysat children, and was loved by her family and was kind to animals. And it just doesn’t seem likely that she could have done this horrific deed, and then gone on to live a normal life, and maybe we’ll never know.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: My guest for today have been genetic genealogists, CeCe Moore and author and podcaster Eve Lazarus. If Cece’s work interests, you can hop onto her website, cecemoore.com or watch the ABC Primetime series on her work called The Genetic Detective. If you want to dive more into more cold cases, I also recommend you check out Eve Lazarus’s podcast, Cold Case Canada, or pick up one of her books. You can take a look at them at EveLazarus.com.
You’ve been listening to Nice Genes! A podcast brought to you by Genome British Columbia. If you like this episode, go check out some of the previous ones. And the education team at Genome BC has compiled resources as well as a learn along activity sheet for each episode, check them out in our show description and on GenomeBC.ca. Message us on Twitter @GenomeBC, and let us know what you think.
And that’s it for season one of Nice Genes! It’s been an absolute pleasure to have you along this ride. And I hope to continue having you around for more fascinating genomic stories in the future. But to wrap us up, I want to thank everyone who has been behind Nice Genes! Especially all our fabulous guests.
Dr Samantha Yammine: This awesome genomic revolution that we’re in.
Dr Jehannine Austin: If you are empowered, then you can engage in behavior changes.
Dr Eske Willerslev: And it’s very difficult not to make mistakes, but the important thing is to learn from them.
Gabi Fleury: So don’t feel limited kind of by thinking you have to go that very traditional path, if that’s not for you.
Dr Brian Arnold: Imperfect is kind of a very good thing, so this imperfection is in some sense a perfection.
CeCe Moore: And so I want that to be inspirational to other people.
Dr Janina Jeff: And really break down, everyone is a scientist.
Dr. Kaylee Byers: Our producer for Nice Genes! has been Sean Holden and Phoebe Melvin from Genome BC. For sound design and our audio technician, Patrick Emile. Our project lead is Mandy Elkoreh. And our intern is Victoria Rowbottom. For marketing is Kristi Boulton and Candice Bartlett. And our creative director is Jen Moss.
If you haven’t had a chance to listen to all our episodes, be sure to follow us on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your shows. Also, don’t forget to leave a review to help gene-a-rate a buzz about the show, but for now, stay mole-cool. I’ll work on my puns for next season.
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