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DNA Test Unlocking The Chicago Serial Killer


Thanks to advancements in DNA analysis, the DNA test has now revolutionized murder scenes. Now suspects can be proven beyond doubt to be linked to a crime thanks to a few samples and a simple test. In Chicago, the case of America’s worst female serial killer has been reopened.

DNA Test Will Unravel The Mystery

A one-hundred year old headless skeleton buried in a Forest Park cemetery in Chicago was thought to be that of Belle Gunness – the woman who found notoriety for killing Norwegian bachelors. And according to a report in the Chicago Tribune, a forensic test on the skeleton could reveal the answer as to whether or not the woman staged her own death in 1908 by burning her farmhouse down after soaking it in kerosene.

Distinguish Fact From Legend

Scientists in an Indianapolis laboratory plan to use a DNA test to solve the hundred-year mystery. Eleven dismembered bodies were found buried on the farm and since then a legend grew around America’s worst serial killer – that she didn’t die in the fire, but fled. Some said her coffin was too small to be hers. The only way to solve the mystery would be to compare DNA samples in the body’s bones to the saliva samples gathered from the envelopes of love letters the killer sent to one of her victims. The success of the test would depend on whether these samples were in good enough condition to be tested. Different DNA samples also have different success rates once analysed in a lab. Some samples are essentially better than others in that they yield intact DNA more readily than other samples. Click here to view a list of common samples used during forensic analysis and criminal investigations.

Butchered Men, Women And Children

The body of the suspect was exhumed carefully; using shovels before swapping to paintbrushes to keep the corpse remains intact. The saliva on the envelopes was intact as the recipient of the letters used a letter opener. DNA analysis using the two samples could help identify whether or not the remains are in fact those of the woman dubbed ‘Lady Bluebeard’. Some believe she killed up to 30 people. Taking a test is one way of approaching the story using science to separate the legend from the facts. It’s hoped the results will be revealed on April 28, 2008 – the centenary of the house fire that led to the discovery of some of her victims.

DNA Test Will Confirm Body Double Truth

After the fire at the farmhouse, authorities uncovered Gunness’s body – but it was headless, making identification difficult. They also found the bodies of her three young children. It was assumed the family, including Gunness, were victims of a murderer – until a man turned up searching for his brother. After another search of the farm, more bodies were found – around 11 in total. As well as killing her own children, Gunness lured Norwegians to the farm with lovelorn ads in Norwegian newspapers – those that came were dead within hours of arriving after their meals were laced with poison. Their bodies were butchered and buried. A DNA test will reveal if the decapitated skeleton is in fact the mass murderer who died in the farm fire, or a ‘body double’ used as a foil in her escape.

Intrigued by Murder and How DNA has been Used to Solve the Crime?

A Channel Five TV series, Crimes That Shook the World reveals how much the use of DNA tests in forensics have helped catch some of the worst killers in history. One of the criminals featured in the Channel Five series was that of a murderer who raped and killed 48 women in Seattle over 20 years. But there were many more. Read our full story.