Joseph Newton Chandler III Identified using Innovative Forensic Genealogy Techniques Team Overcame Challenges of Using Highly Degraded, Low Quantity DNA
Cleveland, OH – Identifinders International and The DNA Doe Project announce the identification of Joseph Newton Chandler III as Robert Ivan Nichols, an electronics draftsman from New Albany, IN – solving one of Ohio’s oldest unsolved cases. The success was confirmed by U.S. Marshal Pete Elliott in a press conference held in Cleveland, OH on June 21.
“Dr. Colleen Fitzpatrick and Dr. Margaret Press and their teams did phenomenal work to solve this case,” said Marshal Elliott. “Not only did they knock the ball out the park, they told us what seat he was sitting in, and who bought the ticket.”
Since 1978 Nicholas had been living in Eastlake, OH under the assumed name of the real Chandler, an 8-year-old boy who died in a car accident in TX in 1945. The fraud was discovered in 2002 when authorities tried to locate “Chandler’s” family after he committed suicide.
In 2016, Identifinders International, Dr. Fitzpatrick’s company, compared Chandler’s Y-STR profile to the public genetic genealogy Y-DNA databases. Results indicated that his last name was possibly Nicholas or a variation of Nicholas. In March 2018, DNA Doe Project, including Dr. Fitzpatrick, Dr. Press, and their team of volunteers, identified him as Robert Ivan Nichols based on autosomal SNP analysis. Dr. Press commented that the DDP effort required about 1,500 hours of genetic genealogy research.
The team’s success is remarkable considering that the DNA was severely degraded and at very low quantities – only 7% of the genome remained due to long-term chemical degradation. According to Dr. Fitzpatrick, entire chromosomes were missing, requiring the group to adapt conventional genetic genealogy analysis techniques that are normally applied to fresh DNA.
Marshal Elliott acknowledged there are still gaps in the story. “There is a reason he went missing in 1965, assumed the identity of an 8-year-old-boy in 1978; and went hiding for so many years,” he said.
Identifinders International is a fee-based forensic service to apply genetic genealogy Y-DNA and autosomal SNP analysis to solve cold case homicides. The DNA Doe Project, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit humanitarian initiative that works to identify John and Jane Does and return them to their families. Both organizations work with law enforcement agencies, coroners, and medical examiners. For more information, please visit www.identifinders.com and www.dnadoeproject.org.