BROWNWOOD, TX — A Texas man confessed to a 2016 murder after investigators released a DNA composite phenotype “sketch” that was a dead ringer for him.
Ryan Riggs, 21, admitted to sexually assaulting his 25-year-old neighbor, Chantay Blankinship, and beating her to death with a lawn mower blade.
Investigators released the profile on November 8. It was developed by a lab in Virginia and included eye, skin, hair color, and ethnic background information — all based on the genetic data found at the scene of the crime.
The technique, which is called a “Snapshot,” compares DNA samples with a reference database of genomic data, and uses a mathematical model to predict traits the person likely has.
Brown County Sheriff Vance Hill told reporters at a news conference on Thursday that Riggs had not been a suspect at all prior to the sketch’s release. But he became a person of interest in the case within hours, when people who knew him began calling in with tips.
Riggs confessed first to his church congregation and then to investigators, according to Sheriff Hill.
According to the Brownwood Bulletin, Riggs knew both Blankinship and her boyfriend — and attended the same church as the victim.
Riggs was arrested on Wednesday and has been charged with capital murder. Right now, it’s unclear whether the death penalty will be pursued for Riggs. The investigation continues.
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Main photo: Ryan Derek Riggs and the DNA sketch [Brownwood County Sheriff’s Office]