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Lifestyle & Human Interest

Self-Declared 'Mad Scientist' Solves 57-Year-Old Murder Cold Case

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Sherlock Holmes with his blinding intelligence, Columbo with his capabilities of deduction, Adrian Monk with his powers of observation and recall — fictional characters all.

But then there’s Eric Schubert. He’s the real deal. And like the fictional sleuths, his crime-solving skills are amazing.

This year, the 21-year-old college student, a self-described “mad scientist,” solved a cold case dating back to 1964. It was the murder and rape of 9-year-old Marise Ann Chiverella that for decades had stumped hundreds of Pennsylvania police, according to NJ Spotlight News.

Schubert essentially stumbled into genealogy, beginning with an interest in his own ancestry when he was 8. A hobby grew out of that, with Schubert eventually starting a website to help people research their own genealogies and look for lost relatives.

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When he was 10, he learned that his paternal grandmother had been adopted. Despite apparent errors on her birth certificate, Schubert was able to use DNA testing to track the birth parents of his grandmother.

Since then, he has used his skills to help solve more than a thousand similar cases around the country. Cracking the case might take a few minutes, and it might take months.

In 2019, at age 18 and within a week of Schubert graduating from high school, the Montgomery Police Department contacted him for help with a case.

He hesitated — was he ready to use his abilities in genealogy for the serious business of solving a crime?

Will the combination of genealogy and DNA testing solve more cold cases?

He decided to go for it. Authorities taught him the basics of forensic genealogy, and he solved the case, although he’s not allowed to provide details.

A detective told Schubert that while there may be data for a case, law enforcement may lack interpretation skills. “All it needs is someone like you to come along and solve it,” the detective said.

Schubert realized he might be on to something, so he began to contact other law enforcement agencies. Almost immediately, the Hazelton Police Department in Pennsylvania responded. In February of 2020, the department gave Schubert a partial case file regarding the murder of Marise Chiverella — the suspect’s DNA and a potential match list.

Despite over 4,700 pages in their files and over 250 Pennsylvania State Police members reviewing the case, there were zero arrests.

Schubert worked on the Chiverella case for two years. He said, “I got a list of around 2,000 people that maybe shared ancestors with whoever committed the crime” after inputting the suspect’s DNA into public genealogy databases.

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He developed family trees, culling possible suspects to the hundreds, down to 30 and finally to four.

Eventually, it all seemed to point to James Forte, a bartender who died in 1980. His body was exhumed, and the DNA test turned out to be a match.

Schubert has since solved two more cases. He can’t discuss one of the cases, but the other one was an Iowa stabbing and sexual assault dating back to 1982.

It’s been quite an adventure for young Schubert. Yet he says he’s not interested in forensic genealogy as a career, although “as much as I try, I really just can’t stay away.”

And another thing — he used to like crime-solving television shows. No more. “Now I can’t watch anything true crime. I can’t even listen to podcasts because it’s like, that’s my life,” he said.

Maybe he might read a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle tale about the famous Sherlock Holmes. Because Schubert seems to be right in their league.

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Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.
Mike Landry, PhD, is a retired business professor. He has been a journalist, broadcaster and church pastor. He writes from Northwest Arkansas on current events and business history.