FL_TheForeverWitness

The Forever Witness: How DNA and Technology Solved a Cold Case Double Murder

Written by Edward Humes

From Dutton:

“Thought-provoking true-crime thriller…the book raises urgent questions of balancing public and private good that we’ll likely be dealing with as long as the title implies.”—Wall Street Journal

A relentless detective and a civilian genealogist solve a haunting cold case—and launch a crime-fighting revolution that tests the fragile line between justice and privacy.

In November 1987, a young couple on an overnight trip to Seattle vanished without a trace. A week later, the bodies of Tanya Van Cuylenborg and her boyfriend Jay Cook were found in rural Washington. It was a brutal crime, and it was the perfect crime: With few clues and no witnesses, an international manhunt turned up empty, and the sensational case that shocked the Pacific Northwest gradually slipped from the headlines.

In deep-freeze, long-term storage, biological evidence from the crime sat waiting, as Detective Jim Scharf poured over old case files looking for clues his predecessors missed. Meanwhile, 1,200 miles away in California, CeCe Moore began her lifelong fascination with genetic genealogy, a powerful forensic tool that emerged not from the crime lab, but through the wildly popular home DNA ancestry tests purchased by more than 40 million Americans. When Scharf decided to send the cold case’s decades-old DNA to Parabon NanoLabs, he hoped he would finally bring closure to the Van Cuylenborg and Cook families. He didn’t know that he and Moore would make history.

Genetic genealogy, long the province of family tree hobbyists and adoptees seeking their birth families, has made headlines as a cold case solution machine, capable of exposing the darkest secrets of seemingly upstanding citizens. In the hands of a tenacious detective like Scharf, genetic genealogy has solved one baffling killing after another. But as this crime-fighting technique spreads, its sheer power has sparked a national debate: Can we use DNA to catch the murderers among us, yet still protect our last shred of privacy in the digital age—the right to the very blueprint of who we are?

“Whether one is interested in cold case puzzles or genealogy, or just curious about solving crimes, The Forever Witness should be read and reread until it becomes a dog-eared part of one’s library.”
—New York Journal of Books

“This book was fabulous. The Forever Witness was thorough, informative, and deeply emotional.”
—True Crime Index

“Thoughtful true-crime.”
—People

“Humes’ writing is suspenseful yet also journalistic, providing fascinating details about the case, technological advances in police work, and genetic genealogy. A winner for any fan of true crime.”
—Booklist (starred review)

“Stellar true crime account… Humes matches taut prose with assured storytelling. This fascinating look at how technology has revolutionized crime solving is must reading.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Fans of Michelle McNamara’s acclaimed I’ll Be Gone in the Dark should clear their schedules, because Edward Humes’ riveting account is nearly impossible to put down…The Forever Witness has earned a well-deserved place among top-notch true crime.”
—Bookpage (starred review)

“A well-paced true-crime procedural that offers new twists on old methods of police work.”
—Kirkus