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Cold case suspect fighting DNA collection for 1986 case

Michael Carbo was charged after a company provided Chisholm police a composite sketch and his name from genetic genealogy

CHISHOLM, Minn. — The suspect in a 1986 cold case murder in Chisholm, Minnesota is due in court Wednesday as his attorney tries to get evidence thrown out.

It all centers around new technology and a company that helped police find the man now charged in the case when they had nowhere else to turn.

Chisholm police believe they've solved the mystery of who killed Nancy Daugherty in 1986. And this case is raising new questions about the partnership between law enforcement and private forensic DNA companies.

Imagine if an accurate composite sketch of a murder suspect could be made -- not from eyewitness descriptions -- but from DNA the person left behind.

Well, that's exactly what Virginia-based Parabon Nanolabs says they do.

"Predicting things such as how their face is shaped, what color their eyes and hair are – their ancestry, that's something a detective can't tell just from a DNA sample. But we can pull out that information," said Ellen Greytak, Director of Bioinformatics for Parabon Nanolabs.

They call it DNA phenotyping and claim to be the only company in the world with this service. Combined with genetic genealogy, which involves tracing family trees using DNA to find a specific person, the company says they've helped solve 160 cases across the country.

"It's astounding just how accurate they are," Greytak said.

Now Parabon Nanolabs' first Minnesota case is heading toward trial - and the suspect's lawyer is scrutinizing their work. 

Michael Carbo is accused of sexually assaulting and killing 38-year-old Nancy Daughtery - his classmate's mother - when he was 18 years old.

Chisholm police had no suspects when they reached out to Parabon Nanolabs. 

But according to court documents, Parabon did its work and gave Chisholm police a specific name: Michael Carbo. After getting a DNA sample from his trash, matching it to the sample from the crime scene, St. Louis County filed murder charges against the now-53-year-old last year.

So far a judge has decided that prosecutors don't need to share with the defense how Parabon Nanolabs came to its conclusion. And that issue will be argued in court.

Michael Carbo lived right in Chisholm - yet he wasn't on the radar as a suspect until Parabon Nanolabs gave police his name.

According to emails, it cost Chisholm about $7,000.