A Hemet man, Mark Thompson Hunter, has been sentenced to 130 years to life in prison for a 1999 kidnapping and rape case in Escondido. The breakthrough in solving the cold case came through the use of genetic genealogy, a method linking DNA from crime scenes to voluntarily uploaded profiles on public databases. A family member’s DNA test in 2020 led investigators to Hunter, who was subsequently arrested and charged. Hunter, 66, was convicted in October after a trial, marking the third successful prosecution of a cold sex-crimes case using genetic genealogy in the local District Attorney’s Office.
Genetic Genealogy Unveils Culprit in Cold-Case Rape
Hunter’s sentencing follows a 1999 incident where he allegedly kidnapped and raped a 19-year-old woman in Escondido. The assailant had lured the victim by asking for directions, ultimately leading to a violent assault. Despite the decades that passed, a fresh look at the case in 2020, utilizing genetic genealogy, enabled investigators to trace the DNA to Hunter, resulting in his arrest.
The sentencing comes after a trial in Vista Superior Court, during which Hunter was convicted on several felonies, including rape, kidnapping, and tying up the victim. During Thursday’s hearing, Hunter, maintaining his innocence, grew disruptive and was removed from the courtroom, expressing intentions to appeal.
Genetic genealogy involves matching crime scene DNA to profiles in public databases, allowing investigators to create family trees and identify potential suspects. This method, previously successful in cases like the Golden State Killer, has proven effective in solving cold cases. The removal of the statute of limitations in forceable sex crimes also played a crucial role in prosecuting Hunter for the 1999 incident.
Broader Impact of Genetic Genealogy in Cold Cases
The use of genetic genealogy has been instrumental in solving various cold cases, not limited to homicides, but also extending to sexual assault cases. By identifying distant relatives with matching DNA, investigators can narrow down potential suspects and initiate further inquiries. Despite some controversy, the method has demonstrated its effectiveness in providing justice for victims and holding perpetrators accountable.
The Hunter case reflects a broader trend in leveraging advanced forensic technologies to revisit unsolved cases, emphasizing the intersection of science and law enforcement. As the legal landscape adapts to new investigative methods, the successful prosecution of cold cases through genetic genealogy underscores the potential for bringing closure to victims and their families.