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Brown County Sheriff: Murder suspect wasn't ‘on radar' until composite sketch released

Investigator saw DNA method on TV crime show

BROWNWOOD, Texas - Murder suspect Ryan Derek Riggs was never on the radar until a composite sketch of the killer – drawn from a new method that uses DNA to predict physical appearances – was released, Brown County Sheriff Vance Hill said Thursday.

Riggs, 21, is being held in Brown County Jail on a murder charge.  He allegedly sexually assaulted and then killed Lake Brownwood resident Chantay Blankinship.

Hill said his office and the district attorney’s office spent $4,000 to hire a company with a lab in Virginia to use DNA to generate the image – and that $4,000 is the best money his office has ever spent.

Investigators say Riggs dumped the 25-year-old woman’s body in a rural area. An autopsy determined she died as a result of a “crushed larynx with blunt force injuries to her neck, face and torso.”

A lawn mower blade was found at the crime scene. Injuries to her head and torso were consistent with the use of such a blade, Hill said.

Riggs confessed to killing Blankinship during a church service Wednesday. His parents then drove him to the Law Enforcement Center and turned him in, Hill said.

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RELATED: Victim's parents react: http://www.ktxs.com/657214479

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During a news conference, Hill credited Parabon Nanolabs in Virginia with playing a key role in solving a murder that occurred 18 months ago on May 15, 2016.

The lab uses a method known as phenotyping to determine skin, eye and hair color, and ancestry.

Within hours of releasing the composite sketch, Hill said they had multiple suspects – including Riggs.

Hill said Sgt. Scott Bird, with the sheriff’s office, saw the new phenotyping technique and technology on a crime TV show. Bird didn’t recall the name of the show.

The DNA came from semen and off the lawn mower blade, Hill said.

A profile was produced in about four weeks.

Meanwhile, Hill said authorities previously had contact with Riggs from an illegal dumping case in the area.

According to authorities, Riggs’ parents had given him money to go dump the trash, and he chose to dump it illegally.  The trash was from Riggs’ home.

The case was presented to a Brown County grand jury on Thursday.

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