If you met Olivia McCarter while out and about in Mobile, you’d never guess that she spends her days surrounded by death. The 20-year old University of South Alabama Anthropology student is the youngest employee on Mobile County Sheriff’s payroll as a Genealogy Analyst and Reserve Deputy. To date, she’s helped identify six victims or perpetrators in previously unsolved cases, also known as cold cases.
Genealogy Analyst at 20 years old
McCarter began her career in geneaology at 17, when she got a summer internship with a forensics lab after graduating high school. There she learned how to use available DNA to construct family trees and identify either victims or perpetrators.
The main cases she works on? Deaths of children.
“Seeing how much my work meant to the families when they got their relative back just made me know, ‘Okay, I want to help more people,'”Olivia McCarter
To hear McCarter talk about her cases is almost like when she talks about her friends or relatives. Their pictures hang on the wall right over her desk, where she can remind herself what she’s doing it all for.
“My specialty is kids and baby cases, even some babies killed within 24-hours of being born. They were thrown away. They’re never born in hospitals or anything. They don’t have names of their own, so me and my team pick names for them and that will be their name forever. It’s a name given to them by people who love them, and we really do. We call them ‘our babies.'”Olivia McCarter
How the geneaology process works
In McCarter’s role as a Genealogy Analyst, she processes the DNA of unidentified remains and spends months cross-referencing partial DNA matches to build up a family tree that eventually identifies the victim (or perpetrator). This can take anywhere from four hours (McCarter’s personal record) to several months depending on the information available and number of matches in the system.
McCarter works on these cases with utmost empathy and care, befriending victim’s families along the way.
She’s not slowing down anytime soon, either. She’s solved two more cases to be announced in the near future and has over 100 in the works currently. She mainly focuses on cases in Alabama, more specifically, Mobile.
“There are enough cold cases in just Alabama to make an entire career of it, so I’m just knocking them out one at a time. Mobile’s my home, so I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon.”Olivia McCarter
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