ELIZABETHTOWN, Pa. (WHTM) — Eric Schubert is a college student-turned-detective.
The 19-year-old Elizabethtown College sophomore is helping police solve cold cases using investigative genetic genealogy.
“One law enforcement agency that I am working with calls me ‘the kid.’ Another agency calls me the ‘mad scientist.’ I have a lot of labels out there and I kind of embrace all of them, ” Schubert said.
Schubert has changed a lot of lives sitting in front of his computer. Many of them adoptees searching for their biological parents.
“I have helped at least one thousand people minimum,” Schubert said.
The self-taught genealogy whiz started looking into ancestry at the age of 9 when he was suffering from pneumonia and looking for something to pass the time. He built his own family tree using ancestry sites and public records.
“I love the puzzle pieces of it. I love the history,” Schubert said.
By the age of 15, he had his own genealogy business. Then his senior year in high school, a police department reached out to him for help.
“It was a police department in Montgomery County. They had this case they wanted me to work on,” Schubert said.
Genetic genealogy has given police agencies across the country an edge in solving cold cases. The first public arrest made with the help of this technology was the Golden State Killer in April 2018. Two months later, a 1992 cold case in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania was solved.
Raymond Rowe was arrested for the murder of 25-year-old Christy Mirack. DNA left at the crime scene was uploaded to a public genetic genealogy database, which found matches to Rowe’s relative and later led police to their suspect.
“Law enforcement really wants to do this but they don’t have the money. I am doing a lot of them pro bono just because I really think there is a need for that sort of work,” Schubert said.
Schubert says he is now involved in about half a dozen cold cases.
“It can be very complicated, but a good way to put it is that by going through the DNA family trees of people who share DNA with the suspect you can narrow in on a family line. In some cases, I have a sketch of the person who did it, and the person I identify as the possible suspect can be identical,” Schubert said. “You could be dealing with, let’s just come up with someone random, a 45-year-old family man from Tennessee and you know that he or his brother killed someone.”
As for his first cold case, Schubert believes he has identified the suspect. The abc27 Investigators confirmed police are now working on wrapping up the case. It is still an open investigation so we can not identify the police department or the cold case. The detective involved told the abc27 Investigators Schubert has played a key role in the investigation.
“I love hearing that. Knowing you solved a murder or solved a rape it’s a different kind of impact, which is interesting,” Schubert said. “I just hope and know that at the end of the day law enforcement will prevail and I look forward to those announcements.”
The abc27 Investigators will do a follow-up when the police announce an arrest has been made in the case.
Schubert is studying political science and history at Elizabethtown College. He says genetic genealogy will always be one of his passions.