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Trial underway for 1984 Florida murder, thanks to genealogy site based in Palm Beach Co.

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GEDmatch has since partnered with California-based forensic genomics company, Verogen, but Rogers says he is still very much involved. (WPEC)

A trial is underway for 61-year-old Thomas Garner, who's facing a murder charge in the death of a U.S. Navy recruit.

The dental hygienist is accused of strangling and dumping the body of Pamala Cahanes in 1984 in Seminole County, and now Garner is possibly linked to the 1982 murder case of Kathy Hicks out of Honolulu.

According to investigators, they tracked him down using a DNA service Parabon NanoLabs and a genealogy website called GEDmatch, based out of Palm Beach County.

“I did not know about that case until you told me, but I’m very happy to know about it," GEDmatch founder Curtis Rogers told CBS12 News.

The 82-year-old grandfather created GEDmatch as a hobby in 2010.

A tool for people to submit their DNA test results in hopes in finding long lost relatives.

But everything changed in 2018 after his genealogy database site led investigators to the arrest of the infamous Golden State Killer suspect, Joseph James DeAngelo, in California.

Rogers has since moved out of his Lake Worth Beach office, and is now operating out of West Palm Beach.

“We have probably now solved over 200 cold cases in the last three years since we first got the Golden State Killer,” he said.

It has now become a go-to source for police. Investigators submit evidence found at crime scenes right on the site.

“For the first year or so, I knew all the cases that were being solved. We talked about it. But now, it’s just gotten out of hand,” he said with a grin on his face. “Now, they’re solving it weekly, if not more often.”

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After participants upload their personal DNA information on the site, they can choose to manually "opt in" if they want law enforcement to have access to their information.

“About 80 percent of them want to help and have their information available,” he said.

GEDmatch has since partnered with California-based forensic genomics company Verogen, but Rogers says he is still very much involved.

The most rewarding part is receiving thank you letters from the families of the victims.

“Probably hundreds of thousands of people out there, who every day of their lives are worried trying to figure out what happened. These cases are so violent, we’ll never give probably give closure to the people who are close to it,” he said. “But at least we can give them some relief and that is so very important.”



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