Pennsylvania man arrested in 1969 rape and murder of San Diego woman based on DNA and genealogy data

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A young go-go dancer was found raped and strangled at her San Diego home in 1969. Almost 51 years later, DNA evidence and publicly accessible genealogy data led to the arrest of an elderly Pennsylvania man in her killing.

On October 24, an old event and new science caught up with John Jeffrey Sipos, 75, when police visited the home where he had lived with his wife in Schnecksville since 2003, according to Lehigh Valley Live.

Sipos is now being held in Lehigh County Jail, awaiting extradition to San Diego in the cold-case murder of Mary Scott, then 24 and the mother of two daughters.

After Scott was late for work on November 20, 1969, a fellow dancer visited her apartment. She found a shattered ashtray, a torn nightgown, and the nude body of her friend Mary, reported the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Nicknamed 'Lucky,' Mary Scott was a 24-year-old go-go dancer in San Diego at the time of her slaying in 1969. Almost 51 years later, police arrested John Jeffrey Sipos of Pennsylvania as a suspect in her murder

Nicknamed ‘Lucky,’ Mary Scott was a 24-year-old go-go dancer in San Diego at the time of her slaying in 1969. Almost 51 years later, police arrested John Jeffrey Sipos of Pennsylvania as a suspect in her murder

The day before, Scott had been raped and strangled.

She was nicknamed ‘Lucky,’ according to news reports from the time. At 17, Scott had married a Navy man from Louisiana and had two daughters. They separated after a few years, according to the Union-Tribune.

When Scott was slain in 1969, her daughters were pre-school age and living in Louisiana with their father’s mother. Donna Wyble said that people who knew her mother remembered Scott as ‘happy all the time.’

‘I really would have wanted to know her, as good as everyone else said they loved her,’ Wyble, now 55, told KUSI. ‘I really missed out on all of that.’

A fellow dancer found Scott's body, nude and raped, when she visited her apartment after Scott was late to work

A fellow dancer found Scott’s body, nude and raped, when she visited her apartment after Scott was late to work

Rosalie Sanz, the youngest sister of Scott, was the spark behind the efforts that finally led to the DNA ‘hit’ on Sipos, who was stationed in San Diego in the Navy but recently out of the military at the time of the killing.

Around the 50th anniversary last year of Scott’s death, Sanz contacted a friend in law enforcement and asked to have the mystery of her older sister’s killing put at the front of the cold-case line. 

She had read about investigators using forensic genealogy to solve cold cases. 

‘It’s good for families to not give up,’ Sanz, now 67 and the only surviving sibling of six, told the Union-Tribune. 

Scott married a Navy sailor at age 17 and had two daughters in the mid-1960s before separating from him after a few years. Their daughters went to live with his family in Louisiana

Scott married a Navy sailor at age 17 and had two daughters in the mid-1960s before separating from him after a few years. Their daughters went to live with his family in Louisiana

Cold-case investigators from the San Diego Police Department and the San Diego County district attorney’s office ‘evaluated the case and were able to use forensic genealogy to identify a possible suspect,’ according to a press release from police. 

Forensic genealogy, properly known as investigative genetic genealogy, is a science that’s approximately 10 years old – and was first used to help adoptees sketch out family trees, reported Lehigh Valley Live. 

To identify potential criminals, investigators use DNA found at crime scenes in combination with publicly accessible genealogy databases. 

Of the commercial genealogy services that resemble 23andMe, Family Tree DNA is one that allows customers to make their data public. 

Another is GEDmatch, which helped identify the Golden State Killer in 2018. 

Forensic genealogy allows investigators to combine genealogy information in publicly accessible databases with crime-scene DNA to identify family of potential cold-case suspects

Forensic genealogy allows investigators to combine genealogy information in publicly accessible databases with crime-scene DNA to identify family of potential cold-case suspects

With hundreds of thousands of DNA sequences in each publicly accessible database, investigators are able to find family members of people who left their genetic material at crimes scenes years ago.

Through matching crime-scene DNA with that of family members found in databases, investigators can track down suspects. 

That process led to news from police that made Sanz ‘beyond thrilled,’ almost 51 years after police visited her family’s home with a devastating report.

When police informed them of her eldest sister’s death, her parents took in the words, and then slammed the door, she told the Union-Tribune.

‘Everyone loved her,’ said Sanz. ‘She was very sweet and big-hearted and kind of naive for the world she was living in.’ 

Scott's younger daughter, Donna Wyble, 55, said it was 'unreal' that investigators were able to identify Sipos as a murder suspect after over 50 years since her mother's body was found strangled and raped

Scott’s younger daughter, Donna Wyble, 55, said it was ‘unreal’ that investigators were able to identify Sipos as a murder suspect after over 50 years since her mother’s body was found strangled and raped

The day after that doorstep visit from San Diego police, a telegram about Scott’s death went out to the Louisiana home of Wyble’s grandmother, she told KUSI.

But she didn’t see the telegram until several years later, when she and her sister entered a locked room in their house that they weren’t supposed to. 

There the girls also found their mother’s wedding dress and her death certificate. The slaying of Mary Scott was kept a secret from her young daughters for almost a decade, reported KUSI.  

Now, decades later, Wyble plans to visit San Diego when her mother’s suspected killer is extradited there. Sipos is currently being held in a three-week quarantine in Lehigh County, his lawyer, John Waldron, told the Union Tribune.

Wyble with her older sister, Christine, who was killed in an automobile crash in 1993

Wyble with her older sister, Christine, who was killed in an automobile crash in 1993

‘He knows he got caught, just by reading his face,’ Wyble told KUSI. 

Wyble’s older sister, Christine, was killed in an automobile crash in 1993.

‘It’s unreal, because it’s so many years that we wanted this solved,’ Wyble told the Union-Tribune from Louisiana, where she still lives. ‘I wish my sister was here to see it.’ 

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