DNA LEAP: New technology could capture a local woman's killer 13 years later

DNA LEAP: New technology could capture a local woman's killer 13 years later (KSNV file)

A man with light skin and black hair. His eyes dark as the night.

Is it the face of a killer?

You probably remember the crime back in 2004. The case captivated Las Vegas when the newly promoted, spunky 26-year-old was a no-show at her sales job at the Rio Hotel and Casino.

Investigators later found Theresa Insana strangled to death.

"My daughter is six-feet in the ground. That's so awful, but it's a situation that happens just so many people," says her father Joe Insana.

It was a haunting image. The day after Halloween 13 years ago, Theresa's body was found by construction workers dumped in a tunnel near Hualapai and Peace Way. She was wrapped in a white blanket as drainage water trickled by.

Retired senior Crime Scene Investigator Yolanda McClary worked the case.

"Theresa is was what you would call a completely innocent victim. She didn't have a single person have a bad thing to say about her," says McClary.

Theresa's case went unsolved and was filed away.

There are nine-and-a-half binders full of carefully gathered evidence. All those facts could never tell investigators the physical characteristics of her killer.

Over a decade later, a new kind of DNA testing is giving LVMPD cold case investigators Dean O'Kelley and his partner Ken Hefner new hope for a break in the murder.

"Someone who has blonde hair, blue eyes we know from what Parabon told us that the likelihood of that being your person is just not possible," says O'Kelley.

Parabon is a software company that takes DNA data and creates an image of what that person might look like.

Ellen Greytak works at the company.

"Ancestry is the first trait, but then we also predict eye color, skin color hair color, freckling and the shape of the face," says Greytak.

Back at Theresa's crime scene in 2004, there was precious little forensic evidence.

The bathroom was stripped clean. No bath mats. Not even a trash can.

As luck would have it, investigators found tiny specks of blood, enough for a complete DNA sample.

"The bathroom was where we know there was a struggle. We do have two very small samples of blood that actually look like they were missed," says McClary.

Back then, homicide investigators ran that DNA sample through their computer databases and didn't find a match.

"We don't have anybody that fits that profile. No one in the list that we've already gone through fits that profile," says O'Kelley.

With the new DNA imagery, law enforcement could find themselves looking into the eyes of her probable killer. DNA illustrations cost thousands of dollars, a tight squeeze for some police departments.

McClary offered to pay for the imagery.

"We don't know who our suspect is in the Theresa Insana case. We have the DNA but we have nothing else. In my opinion, this was the perfect case to try this on," says McClary.

The results stopped them cold. It could be the last face Theresa Insana saw as she was dying.

Theresa's killer? A man of south-east Asian, European and African descent.

This snapshot has given this cold case legs.

"We just have to get the sketch out into the world and pray that somebody somewhere recognizes this person," says Theresa's childhood friend, Grace Carducci.

Now, nationwide crimes more than 20 years old are getting solved thanks to DNA software advancements.

"With snapshot, the physical traits of the source of that DNA and make the downstream investigation a lot more efficient because they do not have to waste energy on subjects that really can be discounted because of their DNA," says Armentrout.

But now the question is--will this composite profile lead investigators to an arrest?

"We have a couple of people that were looking at that could be a possibility," says O'Kelley.

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