DULUTH – In July the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Chisholm police announced they had cracked a 34-year-old murder case using DNA evidence and public genealogy databases, leading to the arrest of an Iron Range man.
But on Tuesday a judge warned if that evidence isn't provided soon the suspect could "at minimum" be released from jail. Michael Carbo Jr., 52, has been charged with second-degree murder in the 1986 killing of Nancy Daugherty and has yet to make a plea due to delays in the case. The Chisholm man has been held at the St. Louis County Jail on $1 million bail since last summer.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Mark Starr said he could order a supervised release if more evidence isn't made available to the defense by the next hearing Feb. 25 and also hinted the DNA evidence that is crucial to the case could end up getting tossed.
"If there isn't a good explanation and there's no reasonable timeline then the court's going to have to look at, at a minimum, releasing the defendant," Starr said. "There's also the other motion … asking the court to exclude evidence because it is not being presented in a timely manner." Authorities identified Carbo as the suspect using DNA and genealogy databases, a novel technique used to find and capture California's Golden State Killer in 2018.
"This is the first case in Minnesota that has been solved, or where an arrest has been made, using this technology," Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) Superintendent Drew Evans said at a news conference in July.
While the BCA has handed over a "substantial amount" of evidence, public defender J.D. Schmid said Tuesday, Parabon NanoLabs, a company that analyzes public genealogy databases, has yet to produce all of what has been requested.
Schmid is seeking a full accounting of Parabon's procedures and how it identified Carbo since "Minnesota courts have not addressed whether genetic genealogical investigations are lawful under the United States Constitution, the Minnesota Constitution or statutes designed to protect genetic privacy," the public defender wrote in a court filing last month.
"The requested information from Parabon relates to any legal challenge that the defense may have to the lawfulness of their investigation," Schmid wrote. "Up to this point, the state's failure to complete its discovery obligation is the sole reason for the delay in his case and the extended nature of his pretrial incarceration."
Schmid said Tuesday he has received "only a fraction" of the requested evidence from Parabon, and what was sent along "is missing some pretty basic information."
Parabon Vice President Paula Armentrout said the company has "supplied everything in its case file" and was not aware additional information was being sought.
"I reached out to the prosecuting attorney and hope to participate in a call with both him and the defense attorney this week," she wrote in an e-mail.
At a January hearing, Starr ordered the BCA and Parabon to make progress toward fulfilling requests, give an explanation for the delay and provide an estimated timeline.
"I need more than just the prosecutor telling me it's complicated," Starr said at the time.
Assistant St. Louis County Attorney Karl Sundquist said the "state will continue to work with Mr. Schmid so we can get answers."
Carbo's lawyer has asked for his release ahead of a trial, and several family and friends also unsuccessfully petitioned the court for his release last summer arguing Carbo has been a "kind, respectful and jolly person."
On July 16, 1986, Daugherty, 38, was found dead at her Chisholm home nude in bed with a pillow covering her face. Police found male DNA samples from bodily fluids and on Daugherty's fingernail, according to charges, but no suspect was identified until last year.
Parabon identified Carbo after analyzing genealogy databases for the suspect's lineage. Officers then obtained samples of his DNA by collecting a bag of garbage they watched him throw in a dumpster. It matched the evidence collected from Daugherty's house, authorities said.
Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496