DNA, Public Genealogy Databases Lead To Arrest In 1986 Chisholm Cold Case

"This is the day Nancy Daugherty's family and all of Chisholm have waited for, for over 34 years.

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CHISHOLM, Minn. – Three decades since the rape and murder of Nancy Daugherty in the close-knit city of Chisholm, a 52-year-old man, Michael Carbo Jr., living in that very community was arrested for the crime Wednesday on probable cause of second-degree murder.

"This is the day Nancy Daugherty's family and all of Chisholm have waited for, for over 34 years. And after all these years — take a killer off our streets," said Chisholm Police Chief Vernon Manner at a late-night press conference Wednesday. Carbo's arrest happened Wednesday afternoon after investigators say his DNA came back earlier in the day with a match to DNA collected from the crime scene back in 1986. Carbo was never an identified suspect in the case until now, according to officials.

Daugherty was a 38-year-old mother of two and worked as an aide at a local nursing home. She also volunteered as an emergency medical technician for the Chisholm Ambulance Service. Daugherty was last seen alive shortly after midnight July 16, 1986.

She was found naked on her bed in her Chisholm home after being raped, beaten and strangled to death.

There were signs of a struggle, but no signs of forced entry. Her killer made a clear escape, locking the door behind, but leaving behind bodily fluids that would eventually help investigators make this significant break in the case.

Over the years, investigators interviewed and collected DNA from more than 100 people. "Periodic case reviews also happened over the years, but none led to a solid lead in the case, and periodic comparisons of evidence DNA to the DNA database did not result in a match," according to the BCA.

In early 2020, the Chisholm Police Department approached the BCA wanting to provide a sample of the DNA evidence to Parabon, which is a company that analyzes public genealogy databases that have law enforcement programs to generate leads in cases.

Based on the company's analysis and search, Parabon in July identified Carbo as a potential suspect in the case. BCA agents and Chisholm investigators began surveillance of Carbo last week and secretly obtained DNA evidence that was sent to the BCA laboratory for analysis.

On Monday, the BCA laboratory reported a DNA match to the bodily fluids found on the victim and at the scene. And Wednesday morning, investigators obtained a DNA sample directly from Carbo with his consent. The BCA laboratory tested the known DNA sample, providing confirmation Wednesday afternoon of a DNA match.

"They measured the amount of DNA and they look for people that may be related to somebody in publicly available databases. Those genealogists then searched through those databases that are available in public forums that are agreements in place that law enforcement was able to use those and then they're able to determine if somebody was a link in that case. In this case we got this such a lead," said Drew Evans, superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).

Evans believes this is the first cold case arrest in Minnesota triggered by this type of DNA analysis.

Carbo will be charged as early as Thursday by the St. Louis County Attorney's Office.

"This case illustrates why no case is ever cold for us" Evans said. "Every time we hit a dead end, investigators and scientists go back to the drawing board. Solving this case is proof of the value of tenacious work – even when it's over a span of decades."

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