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Local man’s work with FBI helps crack Green Bay cold case, colleagues say

Posted at 10:44 PM, Dec 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-28 12:33:40-05

GREEN BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) -- It is the technology everyone is talking about; forensic genetic genealogy and its ability to solve cold case murder investigations across the globe.

The man, many say engineered this new investigative technique is from right here in Green Bay.

The FBI has turned down every request for an interview with him, until now.

In this article FBI attorney, Steve Kramer speaks out for the first time and hear from those who say they've worked closely with him to crack the case of one of the most notorious serial killers in U.S. history and Green Bay's oldest cold case;

Born in Fort Lauderdale and raised in Green Bay, Steve Kramer is an attorney with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in its Los Angeles office.

"I've been embedded with agents working side by side with them for the last 22 years. Most agents think I'm an agent," says Steve Kramer.

For investigators, current technology wasn't doing enough to solve violent crimes.
"In every case, there is a new twist on it. You think you've seen it all then you see something new," Kramer adds.

In the late 1970s and '80s, the Golden State Killer terrorized the state of California. More than a dozen people were murdered; 50 were raped. For more than 40 years the killer evaded capture. It would take something never seen before in forensics to solve the case.

Paul Holes, Former cold case investigator for the Contra Costa County Sheriff's Office says he and FBI Attorney Steve Kramer wanted to advance justice through DNA technology.

"Steve Kramer calls me up out of the blue and this would have been March or April of 2017. He said, Paul, I believe in DNA. I believe in genealogy. How can I help?" Holes says.

Kramer is bound by the FBI from talking about DNA. However, Holes says they both knew the secret to crack the most unsolvable cases lie within crime scene DNA. Kramer and Holes wanted to prove that crime scene DNA could be uploaded to public genealogy databases to find a genetic relative of the suspect.

"Eventually we recognized the technology that ultimately is being used today was just so powerful we had to pursue it. So we just partnered up," says Holes.

It was Steve Kramer, Holes says who blazed the trail for DNA forensics.

Public genealogy date hubs were the hey to his new investigative technique but Kramer needed someone to unlock the bank.

Bennett Greenspan is the president and founder of FamilyTreeDNA, a Houston based genetic testing company.

"Steve said you know you really have an opportunity to make a difference," says Bennett Greenspan about one of his first conversations with Steve Kramer. "He called me and told me that he had a horrendous case of dozens of murders and rapes they think came from the same person and he said, 'I think I can get um some of that DNA. Will you run it?' And it didn't take me long to say, yes I will l because it felt like the right thing to do," Bennett adds.

Just like that, the FBI gained access to more than two million public DNA records. And it worked.

By uploading crime-scene DNA to genetic search hub, GEDmatch, Paul Holes says he and Kramer identified distant relatives of the Golden State Killer.

Holes says by reverse engineering a family tree they were able to identify Joseph James DeAngelo. One of those most notorious serial killers in U.S. history.

After 47 years on the run, DeAngelo was arrested, convicted, sentenced to 11 life terms without the possibility of parole, and forensic genetic genealogy was born.

"The reality is, without Steve Kramer I'm not sure the golden state killer case would have ever been solved," Holes says.

For now, the FBI won't speak publicly about forensic genetic genealogy but according to Green Bay detective, David Graf the same technique Steve Kramer's colleagues credit him with inventing is what lead to an arrest in the Green Bay cold case of Lisa Holstead; the 22-year-old single mother who was murdered in 1986.

"It started with the media of the Golden State Killer case and I knew in the case we had a (DNA) profile that wasn’t identified. I didn’t know if this type of investigation was appropriate so I reached out to some people and I found out that it was the type of case that could be useful to them," says Graf about applying forensic genetic genealogy to Lisa Holstead's case.

"Steve provided the blueprint for me to do the assist in my investigation to help me develop the leads that I needed to do to eventually identify a person," Det. Graf adds. "He walked me through some of the steps that um are used in these types of investigations and he pointed me in the right direction."

Thirty-four years after Holstead's murder, Det. Graf says forensic genetic genealogy lead investigators to 65-year-old Lou Griffin.
Griffin was arrested for the crime and now awaits his trial. An arraignment hearing is scheduled for February 8th, 2021.

"The FBI has decided that they do not want to broadcast the work that he is doing. I’ve been trying to put it out there that Steve Kramer and the agents working for him have been doing great work and they are providing- they are solving cases and getting families justice! The fact that he’s out of Green Bay and he helped solve a Green Bay case, that’s just amazing," says Paul Holes.

Those close to Kramer say they want the world to know exactly who's responsible for the next generation of forensics.

"It's groundbreaking. It's life-changing it's a paradigm shift it's all those things. And Steve saw it. He connected the dots and just ran with it," says Bennett Greenspan of FamilyTreeDNA.

But despite his pioneering career, Steve says his humble roots keep him grounded.

"One of the unique things of growing up in Green Bay certainly when I grew up there we could all be very independent," Kramer says.

"I roamed the neighborhoods hanging out with my friends, my brother. It was great. It was a great life."

Steve says his motivation is about finding justice.

"I think that was the biggest thing. You're not just making a difference not just in your life but to somebody else's life. So that for me was the motivation to stay in law enforcement."