California police use genealogy database to solve 46-year-old cold case killing

Vallejo Police Department announced they used DNA analysis to identify Robert Dale Edwards as the killer in the 1973 death of Naomi Sanders. Photo courtesy Vallejo Police Department

Feb. 28 (UPI) — The Vallejo Police Department in California announced Thursday that it identified the killer in the 1973 slaying of a California woman using DNA analysis.

Vallejo police identified Robert Dale Edwards as the suspect in the death of Naomi Sanders using DNA found on clothing she was wearing at the time to track down one of his living relatives.

Sanders, 57, was found strangled to death inside of her apartment where she lived alone on Feb. 27, 1973. Forensic examination determined she had been the victim of sexual assault and was killed by strangulation.

In 2014, forensic evidence found semen staining on her clothing but a search of the Combined DNA Index System produced no matches.

Detectives later turned to the science of investigative genetic genealogy which matches DNA to public genetic genealogy databases to find relatives.

They partnered with Parabon NanoLabs in April 2019 and a DNA genealogy analysis narrowed their search to two male leads.

Investigators were able to eliminate one of the leads but discovered the second lead — Edwards — had died and his remains had been cremated.

However, they learned he had a biological son who lived out of state and were able to contact him and collect his DNA, identifying Edwards as the suspect. He was 22 at the time of Sanders’ death.

Edwards, who had a criminal history including assault, theft, DUI, domestic violence, assault with a deadly weapon and attempted murder, died in December 1993 of a drug overdose in California’s Napa County.

Sanders’ nieces, Sharron and Dixie, issued a statement to police, thanking them for solving the case.

“The Kadinger Family is immensely grateful to the Vallejo Police Department and to everyone who worked this case for the past 46 years,” they said. “As you can imagine, over that 46 years, many family members directly affected by the loss of Naomi have also passed and unfortunately they cannot be afforded the truth as to what happened.”


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