Law Enforcement > Bureau of Criminal Investigation > Investigation Division > Cold Case Unit > Successes

Success Stories

These recent BCI cold-case successes help to illustrate both the complexity and the ever-increasing promise of DNA testing in criminal cases:

Serial killer investigation

The dedication and perseverance of BCI analysts, investigators and scientists paid off in 2019 when familial DNA was used to identify a suspect in the deaths decades earlier of at least three women.

BCI staff members had spent six years searching for suspects, trying to find a DNA match to evidence left behind by the unknown killer, reading cold-case reports from throughout Ohio and the nation and contacting police departments regarding unlogged evidence.

They eventually hit pay-dirt when a special testing process identified a man convicted of another crime whose DNA was so close to the killer’s that he was likely a close relative.

By researching that man’s family tree, a criminal intelligence analyst learned about one of his brothers, Samuel Legg III, a former truck driver from northeastern Ohio living in Arizona whose residential history showed that he could have committed the killings.

To get a sample of Legg’s DNA, BCI worked with the police department in Medina, Ohio, where Legg had been accused in a 1997 rape involving a teenager but not charged. When his DNA matched some found at the murder crime scenes, the BCI team had confirmation that he was the man authorities had long sought.

BCI then shared this information with the lead law enforcement departments investigating the three slayings.

Since the identification was made, Legg has been charged with:

  • The murder of Sharon Lynn Kedzerski, 43, whose body was found in 1992 near the wooded edge of the Universal Truck Mall parking lot in Austintown, Ohio, in Mahoning County.
  • The murder of Victoria Jane Collins, 27, a Cleveland resident found slain in 1996 behind a truck stop in Lake Township.
  • The 1997 murder of Julie Konkol, 39, whose body was discovered at an abandoned truck stop in Lake County, Ilinois, near that state’s border with Wisconsin.
  • The 1997 rape of a 17-year-old girl in Medina County.

Legg is also is suspected in the 1990 slaying of his 14-year-old stepdaughter, Angela Hicks, whose body was found near Midway Mall in Lorain County.

“It’s fair to call him a serial killer,” Attorney General Dave Yost said in announcing Legg’s arrest in February 2020.

A link to 2018 murder

BCI investigators and scientists used familial DNA to identify the man accused of fatally beating 31-year-old Jasmine Washington, a mother of three whose body was found hidden behind church steps in September 2018 in Cleveland.

Jamal Kukla, 26, was indicted in June 2020 on charges of aggravated murder, murder, kidnapping, felonious assault, gross abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence in the case.

The success of the investigation relied on the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), a nationwide DNA database to which all states, including Ohio, contribute DNA profiles from crime scenes and people convicted in felony cases.

When the DNA from Washington’s presumed killer was entered into CODIS, it didn’t find any matches among the profiles already there; Kukla had no felony history.

So a familial DNA search was run, which identified a relative whose DNA was in CODIS. That led authorities to evaluate Kukla as a suspect. He was arrested after investigators matched DNA surreptitiously obtained from him to DNA from the crime scene evidence.

“More and more, familial analysis positively links DNA evidence from a crime scene to a suspect, providing investigators with leads that crack a case,” Attorney General Dave Yost said at the time that the finding was announced.

Identities of 2 abandoned infants

Nearly three years after the body of an infant boy was found in an abandoned vehicle in Toledo, genetic genealogy helped investigators in early 2020 identify the baby’s parents.

The discovery then led investigators to the remains of another child, a newborn girl, found in an abandoned vehicle at the parents’ former apartment complex.

Toledo residents Jacob and Jenna Cisneros, ages 33 and 34 respectively, were indicted in February 2020 on two counts each of involuntary manslaughter, endangering children, tampering with evidence and obstruction of justice in the deaths of the infants.

DNA from a distant relative linked the infant boy — believed to be between 2 months and 4 months old — to Jenna Cisneros, with DNA testing confirming the Cisneroses as the child’s parents. Likewise, DNA testing confirmed the couple to be the parents of the abandoned baby girl.

Both Jenna and Jacob Cisneros pleaded not guilty to the charges, but in August 2020 Jenna Cisneros changed her not guilty plea to a plea of no contest.

Closure for families

More than two decades after their loved ones died, the families of Turina Jefferies and Karen Frank have closure.

The women’s bodies, found more than a year apart in Franklin County, had both been known only as “Jane Doe,” until BCI, working with the Franklin County Coroner’s Office, identified them through fingerprints and DNA. Their identities were confirmed after an analyst requesting case information about the unidentified women sent fingerprint cards for additional testing.

On May 17, 1998, the body of a female had been found next to a building in the 2000 block of Hardy Parkway Street in Columbus. She was identified as Jefferies, a 32-year-old Philadelphia native.

The other body, found in November 1999 outside the Kahiki restaurant on East Broad Street in Columbus, was determined to be that of Karen Kaye Frank, 52, a California native who traveled extensively throughout the country and had recently moved to Ohio and obtained a driver’s license.

“The case might get stale, but it is never cold — as this fresh detective work and forensic reconstruction shows,” Attorney General Yost said. “Everybody had a name, and a life. Everyone counts.”

Said the coroner, Dr. Anahi Ortiz: “For about 20 years, these women had been unidentified and, through re-evaluation of their cases and collaboration with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation, we have been able to identify both. ... We have been able to provide closure to their families.”

Identity of serial killer’s first victim

In June 2019, a 23-year-old woman whose slaying had been connected to a man on Death Row in Ohio was identified as Dana Nicole Lowrey of Minden, Louisiana.

Lowrey’s skeletal remains were found in 2007 in Marion but remained unidentified for 12 years. The break in the case resulted from the work of multiple agencies and investigative strategies, with BCI providing:

  • Crime scene work.
  • Missing Persons Unit/Criminal Intelligence Unit analyst assistance.
  • Project LINK and laboratory assistance.
  • Forensic art.

Also contributing to the successful outcome was nongovernmental assistance involving isotope testing and the DNA Doe Project, which helped with genetic genealogy.

DNA from one of Lowrey’s two daughters in Louisiana helped confirm her identity, authorities said.

Three months after the identification was made, convicted serial killer Shawn Grate pleaded guilty in Marion County Common Pleas Court to Lowrey’s murder. He was sentenced to life in prison, without parole, plus an additional 16 years.

Grate, who had already been convicted of four slayings in the northern Ohio counties of Ashland and Richland, had earlier told authorities that another of his victims was selling magazines at the time of the crime.

Lowrey, who was known to have a job selling magazines in Ohio, has been confirmed as Grate’s first victim.