THE WOODLANDS, Texas - A private laboratory in The Woodlands is becoming known nationwide for identifying victims and possible suspects in cold cases.
The company, Othram, uses new DNA technology to identify victims, find missing persons, and reveal possible perpetrators of crimes.
Over the last several weeks, they’ve helped solve numerous cold cases across the United States.
"I don’t care when you committed the crime, how long it’s been, what has happened since, or whether you burned the remains or not," said Kristen Mittelman, Chief Development Officer at Othram. "We are going to figure it out."
According to the group’s website, they digitize DNA evidence with forensic-grade genome sequencing. This helps them identify people from evidence using little DNA.
"We’ve been able to build proprietary tools that have allowed us to pull information from previously inaccessible evidence," said David Mittelman, CEO for Othram. "We can take not-good-enough DNA, for whatever the reason is, and we make it good enough."
"For about $5,000 per-solve, we’re able to identify and provide investigative leads back to detectives," said Kristen. "They can take our matches, confirm them through their investigations and standard CODIS testing, put that perpetrator back into CODIS, and catch them for other crimes they may have also committed."
Just weeks ago, Othram helped identify a woman’s alleged killer in Washington using DNA from a cigarette left at the crime scene 26 years ago.
"I’m hoping [we] will become a deterrent for crime," said Kristen. "They’ll realize if they leave this much DNA at a crime scene, which is almost impossible not to, they’re going to get caught. We’re going to live in a safer world because of it."
The work that Othram lab is doing [gives] hope to law enforcement [and] families," said Jim Walker. "It should make a bad guy shutter in his shoes."
Nearly 50 years ago, Walker’s sister Carla was found dead in Fort Worth. Carla, a 17-year-old at the time, had been kidnapped, raped, and strangled to death. Since 1974, police couldn’t find or identify the killer. However, in 2021 Othram found DNA from now 78-year-old Glenn McCurley on Carla’s clothing. Given the new DNA evidence, McCurley recently admitted to murdering Carla almost 50 years ago.
"It’s really good to get a name," said Jim Walker, Carla’s brother. "Remove that asterisks from who [did this]."
Houston police say they recently sent a few cold cases to Othram to be examined. However, they couldn’t disclose which cases, they’re hopeful the new tool will work.
"We just go back and re-examine what was done [with cold cases]," said Sgt. Richard Rodriguez from HPD’s cold case unit. "Try to see what new stuff we can do now. We’ve sent Othram a couple of cases. We’re waiting to hear back on the result."
"If you committed a crime, you likely left DNA," concluded Kristen Mittelman. "It’s likely a matter of time before you’re caught."