DNA leads Canadian police to suspect in girl’s 1984 murder

Published October 16, 2020, 9:46 AM

by Agence-France-Presse

Canadian police announced Thursday that DNA evidence had led them to a now-deceased suspect in the 1984 murder of a nine-year-old girl, whose killing shocked the country and led to an innocent man’s conviction. 

Through the revolutionary technique of “genetic genealogy”, which relies on DNA samples of sometimes distant relatives, investigators in Toronto said they had found the suspected killer of Christine Jessop.

The man was identified as Calvin Hoover, a neighborhood acquaintance of the girl’s family who media reports said committed suicide in 2015.

“If he were alive today, the Toronto Police Service would arrest Calvin Hoover for the murder of Christine Jessop,” Toronto Interim Police Chief James Ramer said.

Christine was kidnapped after leaving her home in the north Toronto area of Queensville on October 3, 1984. 

The body of the girl, who was sexually assaulted and stabbed to death, was found months later in a field some 50 kilometers (30 miles) from where she was taken.

A neighbor of the Jessop family, Guy Paul Morin, was arrested in 1985 for Christine’s killing and convicted of her killing after two trials.

However, subsequent advances in DNA testing technology led to his acquittal in 1995.

Authorities later paid him Can$1.25 million (US$940,000) in compensation over his wrongful conviction.

“I can say that I’m happy that there’s closure for the Jessops’ peace of mind,” Morin told the CBC. 

“It’s something I was always expecting… The justice system failed me but science saved me.”

Genetic genealogy made headlines in 2018 after it was used to find the suspected “Golden State Killer,” who has since pleaded guilty to 13 murders dating back to the mid-1970s in California.

DNA found at crime scenes was compared to the database at GEDmatch, a free genealogy website, which led investigators to the suspect’s relatives and ultimately him.

Genetic genealogy has drawn criticism from the legal community over the absence of regulation for the investigative technique, which poses a problem for protecting personal data.