ISP using new forensic technology to solve cold cases and criminal investigations

TWIN FALLS, Idhao — Idaho State Police (ISP) and the Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office have confirmed the identity of a 2014 suicide victim.

Jane Doe’s identity has been revealed to be Cynthia Gunnerson from San Diego, California. She was spotted by a kayaker under the Snake River. Investigators ruled the case inactive in 2020, but after a state grant was awarded to the ISP’s forensic department, DNA testing was carried out and the identity was confirmed.

“Technology has advanced the DNA process so much that when this new lab we partnered with through the grant from the State of Idaho performed it in a different way and using the latest technology , we finally got a hit and were able to identify it,” said Lt. Perry Barnhill of the Twin Falls County Sheriff’s Office.

Newer forensic technology and a recent state grant helped solve this case, and FAI Forensic Services Laboratory System Director Matthew Gamette said the technology will not only help solve d other cold cases, but could be a key contributor to solving homicide and sexual assault cases.

“In this case, it is a missing person or an unidentified individual. In other cases, it will potentially be perpetrators of sexual assault or homicide or something like that,” Gamette said.

Barnhill is grateful for the access Idaho now has to new forensic technology and says it’s important for everyone involved to close cases like this.

“We were happy to finally be able to put an end to this matter. The family were obviously worried that they hadn’t spoken to their daughter in some time. Who knows if we could ever have solved this case. I am very grateful for the grant that was awarded to the State of Idaho which in turn allowed us to use a portion of it to close this case,” Barnhill said.

Gamette says this technology could usher in a new era of investigation and wants the effort to be collaborative across Idaho.

“It now allows us to sequence the entire human genome, which is useful in these kinds of cases because it then allows us to access certain family markers or family DNA.”

Mark M. Gagnon