While not yet having a name, Brown County Sheriff’s investigators believe they know more than they did about the person who killed 25-year-old Chantay Blankinship of North Lake Brownwood 18 months ago.
    Investigators believe they’re likely looking for a white male with brown or light brown hair, blue or green eyes, a light complexion and possibly some freckles, Sheriff Vance Hill told reporters Thursday morning at the Law Enforcement Center.
    Recently developed technology in DNA analysis has provided investigators with a profile of the suspect’s facial and skin tone characteristics — a big break that has jumpstarted a stalled investigation.
    The profile can’t determine the suspect’s age. An image from the company that performed the analysis, known as DNA phenotyping — Parabon Snapshot of Reston, Va. — suggests what the suspect might look like at age 25.
    Hill, District Attorney Micheal Murray and sheriff’s Sgt. Scott Bird, the lead investigator in the case, elaborated on the new information — which Hill described as “excellent news” — in a press conference.

Case history
    Blankinship was last seen on the evening of May 13, 2016 — a Friday — walking near her home in the Tamarack Mountain/Thunderbird Bay area of Lake Brownwood. Searchers found her body two days later on property off County Road 424, about five miles from the home where Blankinship lived with her grandfather.
     Blankinship died of blunt force trauma, investigators have said, declining to comment further on what caused her death. Investigators have recovered what they believe was the murder weapon but have not disclosed the weapon and have not revealed details about any other evidence.
    The sheriff’s office submitted DNA evidence in June to the Tarrant County Medical Examiner’s lab, hoping an analysis would match up with the name of a suspect. It did not.

‘Numerous possible tips’
    Hill’s office initially released information to the media Wednesday via email about the most recent DNA analysis. The sheriff’s and district attorney’s offices used drug seizure funds to split the $4,000 cost, Hill said.
    “Since we released the information (Wednesday), Sgt. Bird and I, and dispatch, have received numerous possible tips in the case,” Hill said. “We have investigators out right now following up on some leads. We’re hoping this is the break we may need.”
     While Hill, Bird and Murray declined to discuss evidence while speaking with reporters, a few new details emerged including:
    • The case will likely be filed as a capital murder case.     • The sheriff’s office will refer the entire case to the cold case review team of the Sheriff’s Association of Texas.
    • While the FBI assisted the sheriff’s office in the beginning of the investigation, the Texas Rangers are the only outside agency now involved.

‘We now have a composite drawing’
    Parabon Snapshot’s analysis has “narrowed the field down quite a bit in my mind,” Hill said. “We are extremely excited about this new technology and information we have in the case.”
    Bird learned about Parabon Snapshot while researching companies that perform DNA analysis, and the sheriff’s office submitted a DNA sample to the company on Oct. 14, Hill and Bird said. The sheriff’s office received information Tuesday — much quicker than anticipated, Hill said.
    “Up to about two days ago, we had no idea of the race or anything about the suspect we were looking for,” Hill said. “We didn’t know if he was a while male, a Hispanic male or a black male. We had no knowledge.
    “But thanks to the advancement in technology … now we have a composite drawing of a possible suspect in this case.”

‘A great tool’
    There is more technology coming, and if the sheriff’s office doesn’t solve the case based on the recent development, investigators “will continue to seek the new technology for the direction of the investigation,” Hill said.
    Bird said while the Parabon Snapshot analysis is not perfect, “it helps us de-prioritize some of the people we may have looked at before and gets us on to new people. This is a large break. It’s definitely something that’s going to help us. We’ll take anything. This is a great tool that we’re using.
    “We’re hoping for that right phone call, for that right person to come forward … we’ll follow up on any lead we’re given.”

DNA match still sought
    Murray said efforts will continue in the national and state DNA database known as the Combined DNA Index System — CODIS — to match DNA samples to a name.
    While that hasn’t yet happened, new names and DNA samples are added to the system additional people are convicted of crimes, Murray said. Checks of the system are routinely done to see if there are any new matches, Murray said.
    “Sometimes it is a bit of a waiting game to see if you do get matches from the CODIS system,” he said.
    If a match was reported, the investigating agency could get a search warrant and obtain a DNA sample from the suspect to have it confirmed, Muray said.

‘Trial run’
    Murray agreed that the Parabon Snapshot analysis “is certainly cutting edge technology … this is kind of a trial run for this office. I know that other agencies have used it with success and so we’re hoping for the same success.”
    Investigators have not revealed the nature of Blankinship’s injuries or whether she was sexually assaulted.
    “Without going into the aggravating factors, I believe this case would qualify as a capital murder case,” Murray said.
    Bird said investigators have not stopped working on the case. “I don’t think we’ll ever consider this a cold case,” Bird said. “We follow up on this case daily, weekly. It’s not something we’re going to forget or stop working on.”

‘I feel confident’
    Hill said his office is also hopeful about what will come from referring the case to the Sheriff’s Association of Texas’s cold case squad.
    “I’m feeling really good about this case coming together,” Hill said, referring to the Parabon Snapshot analysis.
     “This is the break we’ve been needing for over a year now, and I feel confident that we’re going to get some good leads out of this. This got the ball rolling again.”
    Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the sheriff’s office at 325-646-5510 or Crime Stoppers at 800-222-TIPS.

Details of Snapshot analysis
    According to an earlier sheriff’s office press release:
    • Parabaon Snapshot was provided DNA from this investigation and developed a composite profile that includes eye color, skin color, hair color, face morphology, and detailed biogeographic ancestry.
    • The composite profile will share facial and skin tone characteristics with the possible suspect in this investigation.
    • This composite profile is not an exact photograph of what the suspect looks like. This composite profile uses percentages to show the accuracy of appearance to include hair color, eye color, skin color, and skin markings (freckles).
    • This profile composite shows that the suspect will have fair/very fair skin color at a 79.6 percent confidence. Not brown/dark brown at 99.3 percent confidence.
    • This profile composite shows the suspect will have blue/green eyes at a 91.8 percent confidence. Not hazel/brown/black at 91.8 percent confidence.
    • This profile composite shows the suspect will have brown/blond hair at a 97.9 percent confidence. Not Black at 97.9 percent confidence.
    • This profile composite shows the suspect will have few/some freckles at 33.3 percent confidence. Not zero at 95.8 percent confidence.
    • The composite profile shows a white male with brown/light brown hair. The hair style on the composite profile is not an accurate depiction of the suspect. Hair style, length, and thickness can only be done if a witness observed and described the suspect. The composite profile does not depict any facial hair or scarring. Facial hair and scarring can only be done if a witness observed and described the suspect.The accurate age of the suspect cannot be identified with DNA. This composite profile depicts a person at the age of 25.