Forensic genealogy leads to arrest in 1987 sex assault case

Nov 17, 2022, 9:31 AM | Updated: 10:11 am

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — DNA evidence left behind 35 years ago and the use of forensic genealogy has led to the arrest of an Indiana man on charges that he sexually assaulted two Rhode Island girls in 1987, authorities announced Wednesday.

Frank Thies, 66, of Terre Haute, Indiana, is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Rhode Island on charges of sexual assault and molestation, according to the Rhode Island State Police.

The victims, aged 11 and 13, were sexually assaulted in April 1987 after their attacker forced them into the woods in rural Rhode Island, police said. One of the girls lived nearby in Exeter. Police recovered physical evidence that they believed came from the perpetrator, but could not make an identification.

The case was reopened in 2005 following advancements in genetic forensics, but still no match was found.

In 2019, detectives with the state’s Special Victims Unit worked with the Rhode Island Department of Health to reexamine the genetic evidence once again. They turned to genetic profiling, which involves searching DNA databases to find familial matches to the DNA of a suspect. From there, they determined the suspect was likely one of three brothers from western New York who had served in the military.

Investigators then teamed up with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and found that one of the brothers had visited the Naval Justice School in Newport the day before the assault. Authorities in Indiana obtained a discarded sample of the suspect’s DNA, which police say matched the evidence recovered 35 years ago.

Thies was arrested Oct. 19 in Indiana and was extradited to Rhode Island. He is charged with one count of first-degree sexual assault and two counts of first-degree child molestation.

It was unclear Thursday if Thies is represented by an attorney who could comment on the charges.

Forensic genealogy received widespread attention in 2018 after it was used to track down a California serial killer who was responsible for at least 13 killings and dozens of rapes in the 1970s and 1980s. Since then, the new method has led to the identification of dozens of suspects in cold cases, though some critics have voiced privacy concerns about the practice.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin introduces the B-21 Raider stealth at Northrop Grumman Friday, De...
Associated Press

Keep COVID military vaccine mandate, defense chief says

ABOARD A U.S. MILITARY AIRCRAFT (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he wants to keep the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place to protect the health of the troops, as Republican governors and lawmakers press to rescind it. This past week more than 20 Republican governors sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Family says coyote attacked toddler outside LA home

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A coyote ambushed and injured a 2-year old girl outside her Los Angeles home in a daytime attack before her father chased the animal off, her family said. Home security video obtained by KTLA-TV shows the animal grab and drag the toddler across her lawn and sidewalk, just seconds after her […]
19 hours ago
FILE -  Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz, speaks during a press conference at the American University of Beir...
Associated Press

Longtime Arizona GOP Rep. Jim Kolbe dies at 80

PHOENIX (AP) — Jim Kolbe, a Republican congressman who represented a heavily Democratic region of Arizona for more than two decades and was a proponent of gay rights, has died. He was 80. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said in a statement that Kolbe died Saturday. Ducey ordered flags lowered until sunset Sunday. Kolbe served in […]
19 hours ago
Associated Press

Fan buying famed ‘Goonies’ house in Oregon, listed for $1.7M

ASTORIA, Ore. (AP) — The listing agent for the Victorian home featured in the “The Goonies” film in Astoria, Oregon, said this week the likely new owner is a fan of the classic coming-of-age movie about friendships and treasure hunting, and he promises to preserve and protect the landmark. The 1896 home with sweeping views […]
19 hours ago
New Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna is sworn in by the Honorable Samantha Jersey, Presiding ...
Associated Press

New LA sheriff vows accountability, integrity for department

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The new head of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department vowed Saturday to usher in an era of integrity and collaboration after his predecessor’s tenure was marked by clashes with other public officials and allegations that ganglike groups of deputies ran amok within the agency. Robert Luna took an oath of office […]
19 hours ago
A a fan waits for the start of the World Cup round of 16 soccer match between the Netherlands and t...
Associated Press

American fans captivated by US team’s World Cup run

AL RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — The bald man came dressed head-to-toe in full American spirit. A red, white and blue bandana, stars and stripes mismatched socks, shorts that might have been swimming trunks suited for a summer barbeque. Philip Labas wore an outfit bursting with pride for the United States men’s soccer team Saturday as […]
19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Forensic genealogy leads to arrest in 1987 sex assault case