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DNA Used To Produce Suspect's Image In Unsolved Murder


     Authorities have released composite sketches of a suspect in a 24-year-old western Massachusetts murder case. The images were not produced from the recollections of witnesses, but from an analysis of the DNA of the possible killer.

  Calling it a significant development, Hampden District Attorney Anthony Gulluni Wednesday made public images of the face of a white male produced using a new forensic DNA analysis service in hopes of generating fresh leads in the murder of Lisa Ziegert.

  " For the first time in 24 years in this investigation we have a face to this crime," said the DA.

   Gulluni said a “clean” DNA sample from a single source taken from the crime scene and preserved was recently sent to a Virginia-based company, Parabon Nanolabs, which uses a proprietary process called Snapshot to produce an approximation of a person’s appearance based on DNA analysis.

   Authorities cautioned that the images, one a man 25 years old and one 50 years old, are not exact depictions. Such things as hairstyle, scars, and body weight cannot be determined from the DNA analysis.

      In this case, the analysis found the suspect is most likely a white male of European ancestry with fair to very fair complexion with some freckles, hazel or brown eyes, and brown or black hair.

        " We are asking, we are imploring the public to help us, based on these composites, generate leads that will lead to a name, lead to a suspect and lead to a prosecution," said Gulluni.

Credit Massachusetts State Police
Lisa Ziegert in an undated photo with the DNA-generated composite sketches of her possible killer.

He also announced a new tip line in the case: 413-333-9148.

  Ziegert was abducted while at her part-time job at a card store in Agawam on the night of April 15, 1992. Four days later, her body was discovered in woods about four miles away.

  Gulluni said investigators have continued to meet regularly to review the case. The suspect’s DNA has been in every known criminal database nationally and internationally for years without producing a match.

  " It has been frustrating," acknowledged Gulluni.

   He declined to say if the sketches resemble anyone whom investigators had questioned in the case.  

  Diane Ziegert said she marvels at the advancement of DNA technology in the more than two decades since her daughter was murdered and she is grateful investigators have never given up on trying to solve the case.

  " We are hopeful. We are very very very hopeful," she said.

  Agawam Police Chief Eric Gillis said for years investigators felt like they were searching for a needle in a haystack, but now, they at least know what the needle might look like.

   " What we really really hope for is justice for Lisa and her family," said Gillis.  " They have been through a difficult 24 years and I can't imagine how this day feels for them to see this image ( of the possible killer)."

Gulluni said this is the first time composite sketches produced from DNA analysis has been used in a criminal case in Massachusetts.


Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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