Saint Rose students get boost to help solve cold case

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Students at the College of Saint Rose in Albany are following new leads in an old murder case in the city. It’s a case NewsChannel 13 featured on Cold Case 13.

A new $9,700 grant from the nonprofit Season of Justice will help fund new testing of a DNA sample in the murder of Catherine Blackburn, a case from the 1960s that rocked the city and went unsolved. Saint Rose students are getting a DNA sample tested with technology that has solved high-profile cases like that of the Golden State Killer.

Inside the Cold Case Analysis Center, Saint Rose students work with law enforcement on real-life cases. They work on the research, preparing and organizing documents for police to stay up-to-date on old cases.

Dr. Christina Lane is the center’s director and a professor of criminal justice.

“The students as a resource actually take a lot of the work that is needed for a cold case, and they put it in a beautiful package for the police to actually sit down and say, ‘Aha, I see the case, I understand it,’” Dr. Lane said.

Saint Rose junior Christie McCarron is one student researching local cold cases.

“It feels really nice when we find something and we’re able to present it to the police and to a lab,” she said.

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The new grant pays for forensic genetic genealogy, technology that can identify the suspect’s family tree using available public ancestry data. It’s credited with catching high-profile killers and could soon identify the man who killed Blackburn.

Blackburn – described as quiet – was brutally murdered in September 1964 in her apartment in Albany. She was stabbed to death, sexually assaulted and mutilated. The killer is believed to be a man who posed as someone seeking an apartment in her building after she placed an ad in the newspaper.

Evidence preserved by Albany Police is relatively intact, but her killer has never been brought to justice.

The fact that the killer was likely unknown to Blackburn, and the presence of quality physical evidence, made her case a candidate for genetics testing.

A lab in Texas will test the DNA. Dr. Lane said there is often a genetic match to a family tree.

“Once they have this type of relative match, the students have to go backwards and go back and try to identify a suspect,” Dr. Lane said.

After almost 60 years of waiting, a family could soon be closer to closure, a fact that is not lost on Dr. Lane’s students.

“Local undergraduate kids are taking this seriously and trying to reach out and let them know that we’re still thinking about your family member all the time,” McCarron said.