The DeKalb County District Attorney’s office is one of several local law enforcement agencies comprising the county’s new cold case task force. The DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, and Innovative Forensic Investigations are working together to identify remains in DeKalb County’s unsolved homicides.

The task force is one of six groups nationally to receive a three-year, $500,000 federal grant to identify unknown bodies. District Attorney Sherry Boston said the funds will be used to further the force's work.

“We are the only prosecutor's office to receive this award,” Boston said. "The task force will use these funds to catalog, report, test, identify and return to the families the unidentified remains of 27 individuals."

Advancements in DNA testing have already begun to help DeKalb County law enforcement identify bodies in cold cases. A technique called Forensic Genetic Genealogy, or FGG, which combines DNA analysis with genealogy research, helped to identify Rebecca “Becky” Burke after 30 years.

Patrick Bailey, director of the DeKalb County Medical Examiner’s Office, said support from private partners and the family make a big impact.

“The results of that is now we have a name for Rebecca,” he said. “So that is a big deal for her family who noticed that she went missing, didn't have a clue as to what happened to her. We can now start providing those answers to families.”

The DeKalb County DA’s office is still investigating who might be responsible for Burke’s death. Boston said unknown remains are often found in a state of decomposition that makes them hard to identify.

On May 20, the DA and medical examiner’s office will hold a DNA drive at the Covington branch of the DeKalb County Public Library. The event is open to families who have missing loved ones people to attend and share information and DNA samples through a buccal swab.