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Genetic testing helps solve a 14-year-old Tampa rape case

Police man talking
Posted at 2:55 PM, Jun 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-22 16:40:58-04

TAMPA , FLA. — A rape suspect is behind bars after Tampa police solve a 14-year-old cold case using genetic genealogy testing.

“The victim now can have some closure in her life,” said Asst. police chief Ruben Delgado.

The alleged rape happened back in 2007. According to TPD the victim, a University of Tampa student, was walking back to her dorm after the Gasparilla parade. She told detectives she was intoxicated and may have been stumbling around. The suspect, Jared Vaughn, allegedly offered to walk to the victim back to her dorm.

The police reports states, the victim was on the phone with her boyfriend while she and Vaughn were walking back to her room. According to the report, Vaughn even talked to her boyfriend.

Asst. Chief Delgado said said once they got back to the victim’s room, Vaughn “sexually battered her then left.”

Detectives investigated the case but kept coming uptimes to dead ends, and the case eventually went cold, until last March. TPD decided to re-open the case after successfully solving a 1998 kidnapping and sexual battery case using new technology and genetic genealogy testing.

“The detectives worked the case just like it was brand-new case,” Delgado said. “with the help of FDLE and the science we were able to develop a suspect.”

Detectives then traveled up to West Virginia to test the DNA of, now 44-year-old, Vaughn. Delgado said the results came back as a match.

Vaughn surrendered and was officially charged with sexual battery on June 16th.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement started using genetic genealogy to solve cold cases back in 2018. So far it’s helped TPD solve two cold cases, and seven statewide.

“Our success depends on the information found on public genealogy databases,” Special Agent March Brutnell said.

Law enforcement can only use the information on those databases if the “participants opt-in for law enforcement matching.”

Brutnell said it’s only used as a last resorts and it still takes “old school” police work to solve cold cases.

“This is just one more tool in the toolbox for these detectives to use,” said Brutnell.