Identical twins have been matched through DNA to a single crime that only one man could have committed, reports USA Today. A DNA sample from Tyrone Cooper, 36, matches material recovered after the unsolved 1999 rape of a Grand Rapids, Mich., college student. The Michigan State Police crime lab had matched the sample to DNA taken from Jerome Cooper, Tyrone Cooper’s identical twin brother. DNA carries an individual’s unique genetic code. Identical twins are formed from the same fertilized egg and are thought to be the only people with virtually identical genetic profiles. Both men are in custody on unrelated charges while Grand Rapids police decide how to pursue the case. Jerome Cooper is serving a state prison sentence; Tyrone Cooper is due in a Michigan courtroom today to answer charges that he failed to register as a convicted sex offender.
The Grand Rapids case raises issues that appear likely to occur more frequently as samples are added to the nation’s computerized DNA databases. Since 1992, the FBI and state governments have maintained linked DNA databases that match genetic material from convicts to DNA taken from the scene of unsolved crimes. As of last month, there were DNA profiles from nearly 1.7 million convicted offenders and from more than 80,000 unsolved crimes. Recently, the system has begun to make matches involving identical twins.