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Genetic genealogy used to identify suspect in 1980 murder of California woman

Michelle Louise Wyatt.jpg
john pat hogan.jpg
Posted at 3:28 PM, Aug 05, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-05 19:16:27-04

San Diego Sheriff's Department said Wednesday it had identified a suspect in a 40-year-old cold case involving the death of a Santee, California, woman.

The department announced that through the use of genetic genealogy, it had identified John Patrick Hogan, or "Pat Hogan," as the suspect in the sexual assault and murder of Michelle Louise Wyatt in 1980.

Hogan, who died in 2004 at the age of 42, was identified after investigators matched unknown DNA found at the scene of Wyatt's murder to Hogan, investigators said in a release. According to the department, "the investigation revealed substantial and convincing evidence that Hogan sexually assaulted and murdered Michelle."

"In this case, the goal was to find relatives whose own DNA profile matched those of an unidentified suspect in the homicide. The suspect's profile was developed and uploaded into commercial genealogy sites that allow law enforcement agencies to participate," the department said in a release. "The Cold Case Team then formed family histories in the form of 'trees,' which led detectives to other potential relatives of the man. When speaking with relatives, detectives identify themselves, tell the person what they are investigating, explain the process, and ask for their assistance. This process eventually led investigators to closer relatives and ended with contacting John's direct relatives who provided DNA samples, which confirmed the identification."

In 2020, ABC 10News spoke with Wyatt's mother, Margaret, about searching for the person behind her daughter's death.

"I just keep hoping that someone will come forward and tell me, 'Mrs. Wyatt, I can help you,'" Margaret Wyatt said last year. "That's what I'm hoping for. Someone would just come over and just say that…

"Honey, I'm 79, and I don't have much longer. So, are they going to be able to crack this case before I go? I really hope so."

On Oct. 9, 1980, San Diego County Sheriffs investigators were called to the scene on Kerrigan Court in Santee, where a roommate discovered 20-year-old Wyatt lying in her living room. She had been raped, then strangled with a telephone cord.

For years, detectives tried to piece together evidence found at the scene with leads, until the trail went cold. Several attempts to match the unknown DNA found at the scene to a potential suspect failed.

Then in September 2020, months after ABC 10News' special report on the case, SDSO selected the case to be worked on using investigative genetic genealogy. After nine months of investigation with the help of the FBI and other law enforcement agencies, Hogan was identified as a potential suspect.

Investigators said Hogan moved to Santee sometime in the 1970s and attended Santana High School. They believe he may at one time have lived in the same condo complex as Wyatt. Investigators added that Hogan had friends in the complex and would visit them frequently.

At Wyatt's murder, Hogan lived a little more than a mile away from Wyatt's home. He traveled back and forth from Arizona, Idaho, and California until his death, according to SDSO.

"Michelle's murder would likely have gone unsolved if not for the use of investigative genetic genealogy," SDSO said in a release.

The investigation into Wyatt's murder is still ongoing.

The department's Cold Case Team asked anyone with information about the murder or who knew Hogan in the late 1970s and early 1980s to call 858-285-6330 or after hours at 858-565-5200, or San Diego County Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477.

Mark Saunders at KGTV first reported this story.