Ore. police make arrest in 21-year-old homicide by matching DNA on public genealogy site

DNA evidence was sent to a private lab that compared the DNA to publicly available databases shared by consumer companies like 23andMe


Maxine Bernstein
The Oregonian

PORTLAND, Ore. — Police say they’ve solved the 21-year-old killing of Portland resident Mark Jeffrey Dribin by matching crime scene DNA evidence to data in a public genealogy site, leading to a murder indictment against a 52-year-old man.

Christopher Lovrien of Portland was arrested at 7:46 a.m. Monday in the 12000 block of Southeast Foster Road and booked on an allegation of second-degree murder, accused of intentionally causing Dribin’s death.

In 2001, Mark's dad Ken Dribin stands at a press conference in the Portland Police Bureau, urging information to help solve his son's sudden disappearance and presumed killing.
In 2001, Mark's dad Ken Dribin stands at a press conference in the Portland Police Bureau, urging information to help solve his son's sudden disappearance and presumed killing. (Photo/TNS)

It’s not clear how the two men knew each other. At the time, police said they suspected the killing resulted from a relationship gone bad.

Dribin, 42, disappeared between July 2 and July 6 in 1999. He was reported missing after he failed to show up at his job as a United Airlines cargo worker at Portland International Airport. Port of Portland police began an investigation, but Portland Police Bureau homicide detectives soon took over the case.

Detectives checked his home in the 3600 block of Northeast 137th Avenue and then-Detective Sgt. John Minnis said they discovered evidence suggesting Dribin had been killed there.

Investigators found a substantial amount of blood on the walls of his home, along with evidence that somebody had tried to clean it off. There was no sign of forced entry into the home.

Dribin’s car, which had been stolen from his home, was found several days later at Southeast Division Street and 43rd Avenue.

Dribin’s father, Ken, now 87, and his older brother, Terry, both of Los Angeles, continued over the years to press for information on the case.

About two years after Mark Dribin’s disappearance, they held a news conference at the Police Bureau and offered a reward for information in his disappearance. His body still hadn’t been found.

“Naturally, after this long period of time, the family would just like to have some closure, some justice,” Ken Dribin said then.

In March 2019, the Police Bureau’s cold case unit reopened the case and submitted DNA evidence from Dribin’s case to a private lab for forensic genealogy analysis after not getting any matches to DNA profiles in a national crime database.

The private lab compared the evidence to DNA in publicly available databases, including profiles from those who share their information from consumer DNA testing companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com to search for relatives who have submitted their DNA.

The investigative leads from the genealogy analysis led to an indictment against Lovrien.

Oregon State Police forensic scientist Janelle Moore and Portland Detective Brendan McGuire were called to present information to a grand jury, which returned an indictment last Thursday.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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