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HAIR TODAY, IN JAIL TOMORROW

Proteins in hair may offer a useful alternative to DNA for catching crooks

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TO 23-YEAR-OLD Jane Mixer, the world was a welcoming place in early 1969. She was one of the first female law students at the University of Michigan, and her boyfriend had just proposed. But Mixer never became a lawyer or a wife. On March 21, she was strangled and shot twice in the head. Her body was dumped in a cemetery 14 miles from her school.

Mixer’s unsolved murder haunted her family for the next four decades, until Michigan State Police announced in 2005 they were charging a retired nurse, Gary Leiterman, with her death. While re-examining the case, investigators found Leiterman’s DNA on her pantyhose and discovered DNA belonging to another man, John Ruelas, in a sample of blood from Mixer’s hand. It could have been impossible to sort out which of the two was responsible for her murder. In this case, however, police got lucky: Ruelas was only 4 years old in 1969 and therefore couldn’t have killed Mixer. Leiterman, on the other hand, was convicted of first-degree murder.

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25th November 2016
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