DNA connects Florida man to 23-year-old cold case

Channel 2's Ross Cavitt reports

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — A family is getting answers more than 23 years after police found a metro area woman murdered in Cobb County. 

In the winter of 1991 police found a body dumped at a recreational area near Acworth. Someone had sexually assaulted then murdered 37-year-old Yvonne Weems, of Atlanta.

At the time, police now know, 39-year-old George Gengarelly lived a short distance away in Bartow County, but his name never came up.

Police initially didn't have any suspects in the case. As time went on, Gengarelly moved to Florida, and was arrested in another violent sexual assault and beating. He was put in to the Florida corrections system, where he had to give up some of his DNA.

A database called Codis takes in DNA samples from inmates in all 50 states and federal penitentiaries.  In recent years it has grown to more than 10 million samples.

More than two decades later Weems' death, police reviewing her murder file found DNA existed in the evidence and decided to have it run through Codis. Gengarelly popped up as a match.

"When you think about things like DNA, finger prints are circumstantial and they are very, very powerful. DNA in particular is very persuasive to juries," said former prosecutor Gary Moore.

Moore says the advancement in DNA analysis has moved at a lightning pace, and that finding a match is quicker and more effective as the database grows.

In the past decade DNA has been used more frequently to exonerate wrongly-convicted inmates of cases like rape and murder, but the tide is changing.

"Now what you're seeing more, and more is instances like we've seen in the past couple of days where people are beginning to be incriminated from years and years before by people checking the DNA evidence," Moore said.

Gengarelly is being held without bond in a jail in Citrus County, Florida.  He's expected to be brought to Cobb County in the coming days.