AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP) - It has been 48 years since Dee Ziegert held her little girl in her arms for the first time, yet she still remembers like it was yesterday.
“My first memory of Lisa was in the hospital after she was born, me picking her up, and her snuggling her face into my neck. She had sparkling blue eyes, she had a giggle that would make you laugh when you heard her laugh, because it was just that infectious and contagious.”
Dee has relied on these memories for the past 24-years, because memories are all she has left. Her daughter, Lisa Ziegert, was murdered, and dumped in a wooded area in Agawam in 1992. Her killer has never been caught.
DNA testing was in its infancy stage when Lisa was murdered. Investigators collected DNA from her body, but they have never been able to find a match. Nearly two decades later, scientists were able to use that DNA to put a face to the crime.
Hampden County District Attorney Anthony Gulluni told the I-Team, they sent the DNA to a lab in Virginia, where they created the first ever composite sketch of the suspect’s face. “We have the evidence, sufficient, and adequate to provide to Parabon Nano-labs in order to do this kind of testing,” he said.
The I-Team traveled to Parabon Nanolabs in Virginia to get a closer look at how the service works.
Ellen Greytak, the director of Parabon told the I-Team they use DNA and a computer program to generate a sketch of what Lisa Ziegert’s killer could look like. She said while phenotyping has created nearly identical images in the past, the service also has its flaws. “That person's age, their weight, how they wear their hair, whether they've gotten tattoos, none of that is going to be in the DNA, and it does really affect how you interpret person,” she said.
The service can predict pigmentation, eye color, hair color, skin color, face shape, and ancestry.
Greytak told the I-Team, they know of at least four cases their composite sketches have helped solve so far, including a double murder in North Carolina. The suspect in that case was arrested and charged 3-years after the murder.
DA Gulluni told the I-Team the composite sketch of Lisa’s killer has already helped them narrow down suspects in their investigation. “It allows investigators to really exclude people as a matter of fact. For instance, we can exclude people from Asian ascent, or Latinos because we know the person is from a Caucasian background, 50% from Northern Europe, and 50% from Southern Europe,” he said.
Gulluni believes Parabon’s sketch could be the break they've been looking for, for the past 24-years, and Dee Ziegert agrees. “This will be the thing that will bring justice for Lisa. Will it bring Lisa back? No, but we think it might give her a good sense of peace,” she said.
If you have any information on the case, you are urged to call the Lisa Ziegert Case Tip Line at 413-333-9148.
DA Gulluni told the I-Team, their tip line has already received more than 200 calls since September.
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