In December 2022, the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department responded to a house fire in northwest Atlanta, GA. The fire devastated the structure and required aggressive measures to extinguish. Firefighters with the Fire and Rescue Department discovered two deceased individuals, a man and a woman, inside of the home and alerted Atlanta Police Department. As part of the death investigation, the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office was dispatched to determine the cause of death and identify the two individuals. The cause of death for both individuals is under investigation, and while Medical Examiners were able to identify the male individual, the female decedent could not be identified due to extensive damage caused by the fire.
As part of an ongoing collaboration with Othram to close unsolved cases, the Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office once again partnered with Othram to identify the unknown woman. Forensic evidence was sent to Othram's laboratory in The Woodlands, Texas. The funding for this casework was generously provided by Audiochuck and we are very grateful for their support on this case and many others.
Using Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing®, Othram scientists developed a comprehensive DNA profile for the female victim. In the course of the investigation, a possible family member contributed a reference DNA swab to help rule out the chance that the victim could be related to them. The family member's DNA profile was compared to the unidentified woman's DNA profile using KinSNP® rapid family testing. Using this information in conjunction with a follow up investigation, the agency was able to confirm the identity of the female victim as 85-year-old homeowner, Lola Bell Thomas. Ms. Thomas was born May 28, 1937 and resided in the home with her nephew. Her nephew was the second person identified at the crime scene.