A relatively new method of identifying Jane and John Does proved vital in the case of Erica Hunt, a St. Landry Parish woman who disappeared in July 2016.
Skeletal remains were found in Evangeline Parish in December 2018, while investigators were searching for a missing boy. The remains were sent for analysis to the LSU Faces Lab, Louisiana State Police Crime Lab, and the DNA Doe Project, a non-profit organization that utilizes genetic genealogy to identify John Does and Jane Does. To date, DDP has made more than 40 confirmed identifications.
The organization began genetic genealogy research on the remains found in Evangeline Parish in November 2020.
DPP uploads usable DNA to a program called GEDmatch, a free genetic genealogy service that accepts data from all direct-to-consumer DNA testing companies, like Ancestry, and allows users to compare their DNA results to people who have tested with companies other than their own.
Volunteers then analyze results from GEDmatch and begin to build a family tree. They do this by using either public family trees or by conducting research through things like obituaries, Facebook, and newspaper articles.
The organization was founded in 2017. Two years later in May 2019, they received a request from Louisiana State Police to assist in identifying the remains found in Evangeline Parish. After numerous attempts to obtain usable DNA, DPP began genetic genealogy research in November 2020.
According to a DPP press release, a single volunteer "atypically" spent approximately 49 hours researching the case, during which time the remains were known only as "Evangeline Parish Jane Doe." Finally, on February 5, Louisiana State Police confirmed that the remains belonged to Erica Hunt.
As she wrapped up the research, the volunteer said, "Being able to work on Erica's case and to help restore her identity to her was an absolute honor. She will never again be known as just Evangeline Parish Jane Doe; she is Erica Nicole Hunt."
The case is being investigated as a homicide by the LSP Bureau of Investigations, along with help from the Evangline Parish Sheriff's Office, the St. Landry Parish Sheriff's Office and the Opelousas Police Department.
Anyone with information can contact State Police through its online reporting system, which can be found at lsp.org (click the Suspicious Activity link). They can also contact St. Landry Crime Stoppers at 948-8477(TIPS), online at stlandrycrimestoppers.com, or via Facebook. Tips may also be submitted via text message by texting TIPS625 plus the tip to CRIMES (274637).
More information on the DNA Doe Project, including a detailed process of genetic genealogy, visit DNADoeProject.org.
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