DNA cracks 30-year-old Okaloosa County sex assault

Northwest Florida

OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WKRG) — Investigators in Okaloosa County worked with police on the other side of the country to solve two decade-old cold cases that happened more than 1,500 miles apart.

The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office says a military veteran was responsible for a robbery and sexual battery on Okaloosa Island back in 1986. The same DNA used to crack that case also solved another attack in Utah in 1996. The suspect, Mort Snyder Jr., died in South Carolina in 2015.

Investigators say they used Genetic Genealogy, which tracks down a suspect by finding the DNA of close relatives. The same kind of testing was used to crack the Golden State Killer case in California after more than 40 years. In that case investigators used one of the popular genealogy websites where people send in DNA samples. That led to family members of the killer, and finally his arrest.

“The ultimate closures came through cooperative efforts of both agencies and the use of Genetic Genealogy testing and investigations. DNA and fingerprint evidence from the original sexual assault kits were used by a certified familial genealogist to develop a potential link to a person of interest,” according to a press release, “the investigation ultimately led to Mort Snyder, Jr. who briefly lived in Freeport with his father following his 1984 retirement from the military.”

The sheriff’s office says the Okaloosa victim did not want to be identified, but in learning this new information, did want to express her gratitude. She said, “Although it happened 34 years ago,” she is “grateful her case was solved. I gave up thinking he would be caught.” The victim also expressed deep appreciation towards Okaloosa County Deputy Sonya Shepard and Utah Detective Richins for having found her attacker. She said, “Even though he has passed away, I learned he had been in and out of jail for other crimes. His victims will know that he paid in some way for all the mental and physical abuse they suffered.”

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