CHAPTER ONE HUNDRED and THIRTY-ONE
Seth moved to get up.
“There’s something else,” the lead forensics officer said. “Technician Alvin and her team have found something of interest.”
Seth sat back down in his chair.
“They have DNA evidence that links the victims,” the lead forensic officer said.
“Technician Alvin and her team have, sir,” the lead forensics officer said.
Seth raised his eyebrows. His demeanor was somewhere between prove it and what are you talking about. Ava decided to dive right in.
“Sir, you know that there are two kinds of DNA,” Ava said.
“Sperm and egg?” Seth asked.
“Sort of,” Ava’s mouth was dry. She looked over at the lead forensics officer. He gave her an encouraging nod. “There’s DNA that defines the cell’s function and DNA that helps run the cell. The DNA for the cell can only come from the egg because the egg is the original cell.”
“Okay,” Seth said.
“Why don’t you draw it?” the lead forensics officer said.
Ava nodded to one of her lab technicians. The woman jumped to her feet and ran to the white board. She drew a large circle with a smaller circle and a kidney bean shaped object inside. (Map of Cell)
“The DNA we usually track, what’s in the database, is from the nucleus,” Ava said.
The lab technician drew a bunch of squiggly lines in the smaller circle inside the circle.
“The cell needs power to function,” Ava said. “Every cell needs energy. That energy is created in the mitochondria.”
The lab technician pointed to the kidney bean shape inside the circle.
The scientists all looked at Seth to see if he understood. The lab technician drew squiggly lines inside the kidney bean shape. Seth nodded.
“Because it’s handed intact from mother to child, in an egg, this mitochondrial DNA changes very little, if at all, over time,” Ava said. “We were looking at the DNA from the victims and… well… The victims’ mitochondrial DNA are identical within a ninety-five percent margin of error. All but one.”
“The victims have the same mother?” Seth asked.
“The same maternal line,” the lead forensics officer said. “They have a common female ancestor.”
“Really?” Seth asked.
“Yes sir,” Ava said. “We were so surprised that we tested each other to make sure the test worked like we thought it did. I have the same mitochondrial DNA as the victims but these guys don’t share it. You don’t have it, Detective O’Malley, nor does the Coroner or any of her staff including the other forensic officers. Bonita O’Malley and her children all have the same mitochondrial DNA.”
“Which victim doesn’t have this DNA?”
“The male skeleton identified as Mark Gilmore,” Ava said.
“You’re sure?” Seth asked.
“Yes. You asked us to test the children, Katherine Roper Marlowe and Patrick Hargreaves? We did a variety of blood tests and a DNA test,” Ava said. “Patrick has the mitochondrial DNA but Katherine does not.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“We believe most of the victims, and Patrick Hargreaves, are from families that have lived in the Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico region for a long time,” the lead forensics officer said. “For example, Bonita O’Malley’s mother’s family has lived in the front range for over a hundred years. The child, Patrick Hargreaves? His mother’s family moved here when Denver was a fort.”
“Razor?” Seth asked.
“Roger Hampden has identical mitochondrial DNA,” the lead forensic officer said. “Your Charlie does not.”
“But Charlie’s Dad’s family is from Denver,” Seth said.
“Doesn’t matter, sir,” Ava said. “This DNA can only come from his mother. Charlie’s mother is from Cleveland.”
“Seriously?” Seth couldn’t get over his surprise. “And you came up with this yourself?”
“Technician Alvin and her team did sir,” lead forensics officer said. “She thought it was worth testing. Since the lead forensic team is so overloaded, they encouraged her team to pursue this line of inquiry.”
“We were struggling to find a reason why some victims were picked over others,” Ava said. “Now we know.”
“Does the killer have this mito-whatever?” Seth asked.
“No,” Ava said.
“No?” Seth shook his head. “How would he know about the mito-whatever?”
“That’s the million dollar question,” Ava said.
“Wow,” Seth said. “This is… brilliant. I’ll share this with the investigative team. And… Thanks.”
Ava and her lab technicians stood while Seth and the lead forensics officer left the room. When the door closed, they cheered. Ava looked at her watch.
“I have to run,” Ava said.
She hugged each member of her team then raced out of the building. She had a full afternoon of waxing, hair appointments, and nails to get ready for tonight. She was all the way to the car before she let out her own little cheer.
Score one for Technician Alvin!
Denver Cereal continues on Monday…