It’s been 11 years since a San Diego-area woman was brutally killed in her home and investigators are using cutting-edge DNA technology to produce a possible portrait of her killer — a man she likely knew.
Jodine Serrin, 39, was a mentally challenged but highly functioning woman who lived on her own in a ground-level condo on Swallow Lane in Carlsbad.
Serrin’s parents, Arthur and Lois Serrin, checked in on her frequently. On Feb. 14, 2007, after being unable to reach her by phone, Serrin’s parents went to her condo to make sure she was alright.
It was about 10 p.m. Serrin didn’t answer the door.
Her parents opened the front door with their key and went inside. Serrin’s father walked into his daughter’s bedroom to find a man engaged in sexual activity with his daughter. Fearing he had walked into an awkward situation, Arthur Serrin went back out into the living room to give the two some privacy.
He told the man to get dressed and get out. He and Lois Serrin waited for the duo to exit the bedroom, but they never did.
When Arthur Serrin entered the room again, he discovered his daughter had been sexually assaulted, beaten and strangled to death.
The man who had been in her bedroom with her was gone.
According to investigators, the suspect may have escaped through an open front door that wasn’t visible from where the victim’s parents were standing in the living room.
There no signs of forced entry at Serrin’s condo, so her killer may have been someone she knew. He may have known she lived alone.
Eleven years later, the murder of Serrin remains unsolved.
On Wednesday, law enforcement officials announced a reward of $52,000 is being offered for information leading to an arrest in the chilling cold case.
Last Valentine’s Day, investigators released details on a website dedicated to the cold case as well as new information on the suspect compiled based on the first use of new forensic technology in San Diego County.
Investigators with the Carlsbad Police Department (CPD) and San Diego County District Attorney’s Office have been using the services of Virginia-based DNA tech company, Parabon NanoLabs.
The company specializes in something called DNA “phenotyping,” which is the process of using unidentified DNA evidence left behind at a crime scene to predict someone’s physical appearance and ancestry.
Its “Snapshot” DNA Phenotyping Service – which was built with funding from the U.S. Department of Defense – is used by law enforcement to generate leads in criminal investigations, narrow suspect lists and identify unknown remains.
Snapshot was used to produce a possible portrait of a person of interest in Serrin’s case, and what he may have looked like in 2007. Police once again publicly released that composite Wednesday.
The predictions span everything from the man’s face shape, hair and eye color to his possible ancestry. Per those predictions, the man may have green or blue eyes, dark blond or light brown hair, and some freckles on his face.
Police said the phenotyping technology can’t predict age or BMI or details about facial hair or bodily scars. Environmental factors like smoking, drinking and diet also can’t be determined via the technology and, in investigators words, “may cause further variation between the subject’s predicted and actual appearances.”
But, the technology is a solid start for a case that’s been cold for more than a decade.
The investigation is ongoing and anyone with information on Serrin’s murder can visit the website dedicated to the case. They can also call the CPD’s Cold Case Team tip line at (760) 931-2225 or Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.
Serrin’s loved ones remember her as a woman with a gentle heart who loved helping others. She volunteered at her church and at the San Diego Humane Society and was active in the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, among many local organizations. She loved animals and was skilled in floral design, and also enjoyed biking, kayaking and walking on the beach.