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Seattle Police solve 52-year-old murder case using genetic genealogy

caption: Susan Galvin moved to Seattle from Spokane in 1966. She was found murdered in Seattle on July 13, 1967.
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Susan Galvin moved to Seattle from Spokane in 1966. She was found murdered in Seattle on July 13, 1967.

Paige Browning talks with Seattle homicide detective Rolf Norton about the murder of Susan Galvin, and how her decades-old case was finally solved.

In July 1967, Galvin was found raped and strangled in an elevator at the Seattle Center. On Tuesday, Seattle Police announced they had identified her killer, using genetic genealogy.

Galvin was born in Spokane and moved to Seattle when she was 19. She worked the graveyard shift as a Seattle police records clerk, Norton said, and she lived on Queen Anne.

“Her regular route was to walk to her apartment to the Seattle Center,” which is in lower Queen Anne, Norton said. She walked the skybridge from the parking garage across Mercer Street. She was found in the elevator of that parking garage.

Norton said a break in the case came in 2002, when a Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory forensic investigator named Lisa Collins identified a DNA profile from clothing. But the DNA sample didn’t match anyone in the offender database.

Then, last year, the Golden State Killer case was cracked open thanks to genetic genealogy, and the Seattle Police Department wondered if they could use the same technique to solve any of their cold cases. Galvin came to mind. While there are many unsolved homicides, it’s unusual to find a case with a DNA sample that is clearly the killer’s – and where a match had not been found. Norton said those parameters resulted in a short list of victims.

The killer was Frank Wypych, a 26-year-old security guard who grew up in Ballard. He died in 1987 of complications from diabetes – two decades after he killed Galvin. He was married with a small child, at the time – another child was born soon after.

Here's how he was traced: When an investigator ran the DNA sample, she found two distant cousins.

According to the AP, the investigator “worked her way backward using those clues, and eventually found a couple — a man born in 1828 in Kentucky and a woman born Missouri in 1837 — from whom both of the distant cousins were descended. She then followed the generations forward from that ancestral couple, and found Frank Wypych, who was born in Seattle and would have been 26 at the time of the killing.”

The AP reported that Wypych had been arrested larceny; relatives later told investigators that he had been impersonating a police officer and making traffic stops in uniform, armed with a gun.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.

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