Greeley Police solve 2001 child kidnapping and sex assault case with the help of DNA technology

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GREELEY, Colo. — The Greeley Police Department has solved a child kidnapping and sex assault case from 2001 using a specialized DNA technology.

On the morning of Sept. 18, 2001, a 7-year-old girl and her 8-year-old brother were walking to school near 5th Avenue on 9th Street in northeast Greeley. The suspect was waiting near an alley and forced the 7-year-old into his car. He drove her to a secluded area south of the Greeley-Weld County Airport east of Highway 85 where he sexually assaulted her.

The victim was able to get away and make her way to the Air National Guard gate near the airport, and police were called.

Physical evidence was collected and the victim described the man as being around 25-years-old, light-skinned with a bad complexion, possibly with a tattoo of a snake on his forearm and he spoke a little Spanish. However, the suspect was never identified, and the case went cold.

In 2019, Greeley Police requested the services of Parabon NanoLabs, a DNA technology company that specializes in a process that predicts physical appearance and ancestry from unidentified DNA evidence, called Snapshot DNA Phenotyping Service.

Using the evidence collected when the crime happened, the technology was used to produce trait predictions, such as ancestry, eye color, hair color, freckling and face shape. The technology was used to produce both an image of what the suspect may have looked like at 25-years-old and 45-years-old, pictured below.

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Parabon NanoLabs used their Snapshot DNA Phenotyping Service to produce trait predictions on what the suspect of the 2001 crime may have looked like at 25-years-old and 45-years-old.

With the help of the DNA phenotyping predictions and Parabon performing genetic genealogical research, it led police to Jaime “James” Zamora, who lived in Greeley and was 26 years old in 2001.

Detectives learned Zamora died in 2014 while living in Wellington, Colorado. Investigators collected evidence from Zamora’s autopsy, which was sent to Northern Colorado Regional Forensic Laboratory. It was determined Zamora’s DNA matched the suspect’s DNA collected in 2001.

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A photo of Jaime “James” Zamora around the time of the crime in 2001 next to an image created using DNA phenotyping technology.

At the time, Zamora worked at a local sandwich shop in Greeley that’s since closed, investigators learned. He was estranged from his family and a loner, the department said.

The victim and her family have been notified of the department’s findings.

The Greeley Police Department is looking for more information on Zamora, and asks anyone who knew him or had any interactions with him to contact Greeley Police detective Robert Cash at (970) 350-9601.