“I think without forensic genealogy everyone would agree that the case probably would have went unsolved,” said Kristin Sasinouski, deputy director of Forensic Biology & DNA at the Division of Scientific Services.
For nearly two decades, forensic scientists at the state’s crime lab have been trying to help police identify the person responsible for a series of rapes that took place between the years 2001 and 2008.
Court documents show that the suspect often used a pillow to cover his victims’ faces as he sexually assaulted them. But, there was something else prosecutors say tied the same man to all four cases: DNA evidence.
“The DNA that we got from those items, it was the same individual committing these crimes,” said Sasinouski. “These cases had been worked for years every time new technology had come out.”
The victims, four women between the ages of 37 and 84 were attacked in their homes, according to investigators. Police said three of the assaults took place in Manchester and the fourth in Vernon.
“We had connections within the database so we knew that these cases were related genetically to each other but we had no idea who the person was, who that suspect was,” Sasinouski explained. “I think it was just frustrating for everyone because they were submitting samples to the laboratory but then we never had a match.”
All that changed in February. A $1.4 million grant Sasinouski successfully applied for opened up a new avenue to crack the case using forensic genealogy.
Evidence was sent to Bode Technologies to connect the DNA of the suspect to one uploaded to a public database by people tracking their ancestry.
“We may find a third cousin or a second cousin or a fourth cousin or a parent and essentially what we’re trying to do is figure out how that unknown sample relates the closest known relative in these databases and essentially we develop a family tree,” said Andrew Singer, vice president of Global Marketing and Operations Sales for Bode Technologies.
This week, 47-year-old Angelo Alleano, Jr. of Manchester was taken into custody on a domestic violence charge. Police said they already had a warrant for a swab of his DNA because of that new laboratory evidence that identified him as a person of interest.
Police are now investigating if Alleano, Jr. knew his victims and whether there are others he may have sexually assaulted.
“We’re looking at all possibilities including that possibility right now. We only identified this suspect a few days ago and they’re just in the early stages of their work,” said Lt. William Meier of the Vernon Police Department. "Now that we’ve identified the suspect our detectives are going back and working to see what connections if any there were between this suspect and the victims.”
Meanwhile, there is still grant money that Sasinouski says her lab will use to try to crack other cold cases.
“We’re using the grant to perform testing on unsolved sexual assault cases in general,” she said.
Alleano, Jr. made his first court appearance Friday. His attorney described him as a family man, anxious to return home.
“He is 47 years old. Lifelong resident of the state. He has significant ties to the community. He has all his family here in the area including two children with whom he resides.” said Dean Velodota of the Public Defender’s office. “He obviously does wish to get home to his family.”
He’s also a longtime member of the Manchester Fire Department and served as the local union president.
Tolland State’s Attorney Matthew Gedansky said some of Alleano, Jr.'s alleged victims may be dead.
“I have verified that at least one of the victims is still alive,” he told the court, asking the judge to move forward with the count related to that case along with the domestic violence charge.
“It’s a very serious case and a very strong case to say the least,” said Gedansky.
The judge then reduced Alleano Jr.'s bond from the $5 million that he was arrested on down to $1 million on Friday.
Velodota asked the judge to put a mental watch on Alleano, Jr.
He is due in Rockville Superior Court on July 10.