Garry Altman of White Springs, Florida, is in jail, charged with multiple murders after advances in DNA forensics connected him to decades-old homicides around the country. It was through public family genealogy that investigators were able to connect Altman to the crimes.
Advances in DNA lead to arrest of trucker
We all have seen those mail-in genealogy service ads on TV. You swab your mouth and a service sends back a report about your family’s history and where your ancestors could have come from. A service like those was vital in finding a suspected criminal with an already violent history.
On August 16, Altman was arrested in Mississippi on a warrant after Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker filed charges for felony murder and criminal sexual conduct. Altman has waived extradition and will be transported back to Michigan to face charges.
In May 2006, a woman’s body was found by a delivery driver on the shoulder of eastbound I-70 near a truck stop outside Mt. Airy, Maryland. Ten years later, a woman was found dead on October 3rd near 76th Street and Kraft Avenue in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The FBI was able to link both murders to DNA from rape kits. Unfortunately, the DNA of the assailant was not able to be matched.
Those genealogy services you see on TV had a big part to play
In early August of this year, Indentifinders, a forensic genealogy company, was sent samples by the Kent County Attorney’s Office to compare with data from two DNA databases, GEDMatch and FamilyTreeDNA.
Indentifinders were able to match the host samples to a parental match. Both of Garry Altman’s parents are dead, but they had four sons. He was placed at the locations of both murders.
Altman will most likely be investigated for a string of murders involving women who were either sex workers or victims of sex trafficing. Grand Rapids suffered a string of homicides in the 1990s around the same time as the first victim.