How Genetic Genealogist CeCe Moore Solved 109 Criminal Cases with DNA: ‘It’s About Families’
Renowned DNA expert CeCe Moore has helped crack some of the most notorious murder and rape cases of all time using her unique set of sleuthing skills
DNA doesn’t lie, renowned genetic genealogist CeCe Moore tells PEOPLE.
"But you have to be very careful how you interpret it,” she says.
As one of the most successful and sought-after experts in the world, Moore understands what it means to harness the power of DNA.
Since 2018, when Moore, 51, began working with law enforcement, she has helped solve 109 murder and rape cases – many decades old.
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Like her work with unknown parentage cases, “The goal is still the same,” she says. “It's about families. It's about providing answers and some type of resolution and really hopefully, justice in the end.”
Starting May 26, viewers will learn much more about how Moore goes about seeking justice by cracking long-unsolved cold cases on her new ABC primetime series, The Genetic Detective.
Airing on Tuesdays from 10 to 11 p.m. ET, the six-episode series follows Moore, Chief Genetic Genealogist at Parabon NanoLabs in Virginia, as she and her team solve crimes using a combination of DNA left behind at crime scenes, state-of-the-art technology, and Moore's unique, self-taught tracking skills.
One of the main reasons Moore agreed to do the show is to help educate the public, she says.
“It's definitely not for fame,” she says with a laugh. “I'd be very happy sitting on my couch quietly working with no fanfare. No one needs anything more fulfilling and meaningful than what I'm already doing.”
For more on genetic supersleuth CeCe Moore, pick up a copy of this week's issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.
Educating the public, she says, “is really important to me because we don't want people to base their decisions on misconceptions, fear, and misinformation,” she says. “I want people to feel comfortable with it and to be able to focus on the positive aspects of it."
Best-case scenario? “That people contribute their DNA to GEDMatch,” she says.
GEDmatch is a public database where users can voluntarily upload DNA test results from commercial DNA testing companies to widen their searches for family members.
Now used in law enforcement investigations, GEDmatch was first utilized to catch notorious “Golden State Killer” suspect Joseph DeAngelo, 73, a retired police officer who eluded authorities for decades before his arrest on April 24, 2018.
Authorities linked DNA he’d allegedly left behind at multiple crime scenes to DNA relatives had uploaded to GEDmatch. (He is awaiting trial.)
Now that so many long-forgotten crimes are being solved with genetic genealogy, “My greatest hope is that perhaps it will keep some people from committing a crime in the first place,” says Moore.
A Trailblazing Citizen Scientist
Moore’s career began as a hobby back in 2000 when she started researching her own family tree.
Starting in 2010, as advances in DNA technology grew, she and a small community of self-taught citizen scientists helped people find immediate relatives through their own DNA, which had “never been done before.”
Before that, she says, “There was no such thing as a professional genetic genealogist.”
In 2010, she started a successful blog, Your Genetic Genealogist and began teaching - and presenting - about genetic genealogy around the country.
In 2013, after Harvard professor, author and historian Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., saw one of her presentations, she became the DNA expert on the PBS docuseries, Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., helping A-listers such as Melissa McCarthy and Laura Linney find their genetic roots.
In 2015, she started the highly successful Facebook group DNA Detectives, which boasts nearly 133,000 followers.
She hopes more good will come from the show.
“There are a lot of tools in law enforcement and this is just one of them, but if they've tried everything else and hit a brick wall, I'm hoping that the show will encourage them to try genetic genealogy,” she says.
Starting May 26, The Genetic Detective will air Tuesdays on ABC from 10 to 11 p.m. ET.