DNA Solves 1984 Murder of Christine Jessop

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Toronto Police have announced that they have identified a suspect in the 1984 murder of nine-year-old Christine Jessop (“Christine”).

Investigators used a DNA investigative technique to identify Calvin Hooper (“Hooper”), 28 years old at the time of the murder, as the individual who sexually assaulted and stabbed Jessop to death.

Decades after her death, a DNA sample found on Christine’s underwear was determined to have belonged to Hoover.

THE DISAPPEARANCE AND MURDER OF CHRISTINE JESSOP

Christine went missing on October 3, 1984 in Queensville, Ontario.  She had plans to meet up with a friend that evening at a nearby park, however, she never showed up.  She was last spotted buying a pack of gum at a local convenience store.

Christine’s remains were found three months later on New Year’s Eve in a wooded area in Durham Region, approximately 56 kilometres from her home.  It was discovered that Christine had been raped and murdered. 

Police charged Christine’s neighbour, Guy Paul Morin (“Morin”), in 1984.  He was acquitted in 1986 before a new trial was ordered.  Following a second trial, Morin was found guilty and successfully appealed in 1995.  After serving 18 months in prison, Morin was exonerated due to the advancement in DNA testing.

Following the latest development in Christine’s murder investigation, Morin made the following statement:

I am relieved for Christine’s mother, Janet, and her family, and hope this will give some peace of mind.  They have been through a dreadful ordeal for 36 years since they lost Christine in 1984 …

I am grateful that the Toronto Police stayed on the case and have now finally solved it.  When DNA exonerated me in January 1995, I was sure that one day DNA would reveal the real killer and now it has.

HOW DOES GENETIC GENEALOGY WORK?

Genetic genealogy involves DNA analysis combined with matching a sample to a database of DNA to determine a familial relationship.  Investigators can upload a suspect’s DNA to a genetic lineage database, such as 23andme or GEDmatch.  They can then build a family lineage of other known samples that share the same DNA characteristics.  Investigators can search through related names and cross-reference them with their proximity to the crime scene, their relationship to the victim or their family. 

Traditional forensics can identify approximately 20 genetic markers.  In the Jessop case, Toronto Police sent a DNA sample to Othram, a lab in the United States which uses cutting-edge technology to identify hundreds of thousands of genetic markers that can help identify very distant relatives.  Unfortunately, there are no labs in Canada that specialize in genetic genealogy.

The DNA findings from the genetic genealogy test helped investigators in the Jessop case to create two potential family trees.  Investigators plowed through numerous detailed reports and documents and eventually discovered Calvin Hooper, who had a relationship with the Jessop family.

Staff Supt. Peter Code of Toronto Police Services explained:

Simply put, it is not a DNA match.  What it is, is it provides a potential and I must stress a potential family lineage from a DNA sample.  Then it is up to a police investigator to build from that potential family lineage.

Hoover’s wife was Jessop’s father’s co-worker.  According to Kenney Jessop, Christine’s brother, he and his sister played with Hoover’s children.

Hoover died by suicide in 2015. 

Although genetic genealogy is not widely used in Canada, this latest conclusion to the Jessop case may change how investigations take place.

According to Sean Sparling, a former police chief and present of the Investigative Solutions Network:

This is going to be a new emerging technology for Canadian law enforcement.  You’re going to see a lot of cold case units where they have unsolved homicides, unsolved serial rapist cases, they’re going to be turning to this technology.

Genetic genealogy has helped solve several cold cases in the United States, such as the identity of a woman killed near a Lake Tahoe hiking trail in 1982 and the exoneration of a man in California who was falsely accused of murdering a newspaper columnist and spent 14 years in prison.

Genetic genealogy has its fair share of critics warning that there are privacy risks involved in using this technology for investigating crimes.  Many individuals who use genealogical websites may not realize what they are consenting to when they sign up to use them online.  In some cases, when you consent to use a genetic database you are also consenting for your children and their unborn children. 

If you are facing criminal charges or have any other questions or concerns about your legal rights, please contact Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting their client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer 24-hour phone services.  We are available when you need us most.