Advancements in DNA testing bring new hope to Baby John Doe cold case

Local News

WELD COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Weld County Sheriff’s cold case detectives are hoping new DNA technology will help them identify a newborn boy who was found dead in front of an auto repair shop in 2002.

The baby was found outside L & M Auto Repair Shop in Brighton, wrapped in a blanket, just hours after being born. Deputies are now working with a private lab in Texas to help answer nearly 20 years of questions.

Samantha Heisler was 9 years old when Baby John Doe was found. She still lives in the house where she grew up next to the auto shop.

“It hurt us all … a lot,” Heisler said. “Even to this day, we never got that closure.”

An employee arriving at work found the newborn under a bush. A small brick structure serves as a permanent memorial outside the shop.

“It was pretty cold that night,” Heisler said.

Detectives got to work trying to track down leads in September 2002.

“The detectives at the time poured a ton of effort into this case,” said Weld County Sheriff’s spokesperson Joe Moylan. “Unfortunately, it just didn’t go anywhere — and ended up being cold — and here we are, 20 years later.”

But thanks to advancements in DNA technology, there’s newfound hope that the case will be solved. The sheriff’s office is turning to a private lab in Texas called Othram Inc. to conduct specialized DNA extraction and analysis. It’s a company that works exclusively with law enforcement agencies.

“We built [Othram] to basically do end-to-end processing of very difficult forensic evidence that historically has failed other methods or the traditional DNA testing,” said Michael Vogen, director of case management at Othram.

Othram relies on various DNA databases to make DNA connections and find relatives, Vogen said.

“We, at Othram, look at tens of thousands — to hundreds of thousands — of markers of DNA,” he said.

But the specialized testing is not free — $5,000 is needed to get the job done, and only so much government money is earmarked for this type of testing.

“We’re trying to appeal to the generous people of Colorado to help us with this case,” Moylan said.

The Weld County Sheriff’s Office has made a contribution and hopes crowdsourced fundraising can get the rest of the job done. Heisler is hoping that, with community support, answers will come.

“We were all shook — me and my brothers,” she said. “We still leave flowers every year for him. My mom kind of nicknamed him Angel so he could have a name.”

A DNASolves.com account has been created to raise money for forensic casework. To donate, click here.

Anyone who could provide assistance in the investigation should contact Cold Case Det. Byron Kastilahn at 970-356-4015.

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