FBI Arrests Suspect in Cleveland and Elyria Kidnapping Cases

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Police officers and the FBI arrested a suspect in the Cleveland and Elyria kidnapping and rape cases from earlier this year. Justin Andrew Christian, born in 1987, was arrested Dec. 2.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty called him "one of the most sick and warped people I've met in a long career." His crimes took place in February in Elyria and in May in Cleveland, though there may be other crimes that he committed. McGinty said that, before long, it was clear that a serial rapist was abducting children from their homes.

He also said that the man may have used social media to target his young victims.

Attorney General Mike DeWine joined multiple agencies in downtown Cleveland this morning to announce the arrest and explain the fairly unprecedented investigation process (at least in Ohio law enforcement history).

"This case really represents the worst fears of any parents," DeWine said, remarking on the number of parents who were working as police officers and investigators in this case. Hundreds of hours turned up few leads. With nowhere to turn, DeWine's office took a leap.

Under DeWine, this case marked first time that BCI used "familial DNA search." If crime scene DNA does not match any samples in BCI database, BCI can now search for DNA that identifies someone with a "genetic near match" to the person who committed the crime. The search will pull the top 200 DNA matches (out of a bank of some 600,000, DeWine said). From there, the office can zero in on a suspect who shows probable cause, then collect actual DNA and do "more traditional DNA work."

As investigators narrowed their search criteria, DNA found on a ladder in the Elyria case matched the DNA of the Cleveland 6-year-old's rapist.

Familial DNA search tools have been used in other states — not without ongoing public debate. The technology continues to raise Fourth Amendment questions. BCI scientists were told to work 24/7 on this case in recent weeks, DeWine said.

"Familial DNA will be used most carefully," McGinty said. "This will be used only in the most serious of cases. Without it, this case would not have been solved."

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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