Genealogy, DNA and cigarette butt lead to arrest in 2009 murder in Illinois

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CHAMPAIGN, IL, (ILLINOIS NEWS NETWORK)- Authorities in Champaign County say DNA, genealogy research and littering lead them to a suspect in a 2009 Illinois murder case.

Champaign County Sheriff Dan Walsh said DNA evidence is not like what you see on TV. But the DNA trail that lead his office to a suspect in the 2009 murder of Holly Cassano sounds like something out of a story.

Walsh said after nine years, investigators turned to a private company to work up a DNA profile of the man who raped and killed Cassano.

“We contracted an advanced DNA testing company called Parabon Nanolabs to give us a profile of their suspect,” the sheriff said. “They gave us things like the likely ethnic background, hair color, eye color, etc.”

Walsh said once investigators had that, they asked for a more detailed DNA profile. Once again, he said, Parabon delivered.

“They used DNA databases, other open public records, including birth records, obituaries, even newspaper information to do this research,” Walsh said. “They did amazing work.  They tracked the DNA ancestry literally back to the 1800s. And then, from that, worked forward building a family tree.”

The sheriff said investigators connected the final dots when their suspect, 30-year-old Michael Henslick, dropped a cigarette butt. DNA testing of that butt matched DNA at the scene of Cassano’s murder.

Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said Hinsleck faces four counts of first-degree murder. He’s being held in the Champaign County jail on $10 million bond.

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