Authorities in Texas say a high-tech mugshot convinced a suspect to confess to a 2016 murder.
According to KTAB, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office authorized DNA found at the scene of the crime to be used in creating a composite sketch. That image was then released to the public and is being credited with convincing 21-year-old Ryan Riggs to admit to the crime in front of a church congregation this week.
Sheriff Vance Hill announced Riggs’ arrest in a news conference Thursday, indicating a subsequent confession included details of the crime that were never released to the public.
Riggs has reportedly been charged with capital murder in connection to the sexual assault and beating that led to Rhonda Chantay Blankinship’s death 18 months ago. Hill revealed some additional details about the crime itself during the conference, including the suspicion that the scene of Blankinship’s murder was not the rural cellar in which her body was dumped.
Much of his statement was directed at the DNA composite image, which was obtained through a process called phenotyping.
November 8, 2017Press Release regarding the Rhonda Chantay Blankinship Murder.Sheriff Vance Hill and District…
Hill explained that a colleague saw the technique used in a television program and suggested it for the Blankinship investigation. The method yielded incredible results at a cost of just $4,000, he said.
Investigators obtained Riggs’ DNA sample from the sexual assault and sent it to a Virginia company that provided a genetically based sketch of the perpetrator within a week of receiving the evidence.
Riggs was just one of several individuals mentioned to authorities as the possible killer prior to the release of the image. Hill said that “if it wasn’t for the profile, we wouldn’t be here today.”
On Wednesday night, the suspect reportedly walked into a church he and the victim had attended and confessed to the crime.
KTXS spoke to North Lake Community Church pastor Ron Keener, who recalled what Riggs said during the service.
“He said, ‘I need to confess something,'” Keener said. “And in that confession, he said, ‘I’ve done something real bad. I murdered her.'”
From there, Riggs reportedly went with his parents to surrender to authorities.
The investigation continues as detectives attempt to establish a motive, but the sheriff called Riggs’ arrest “a breath of fresh air, a good confidence builder, not just for us, but for the family, for the community as a whole.”
As for the genetic profile he said was directly responsible for the arrest, Hill said it was “nearly right on, it’s unbelievable.”