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osario Prestigiacomo – DNA from fork leads to arrest of Florida man 15 years after uncle killed in NYC

A man in Florida has been indicted on a second-degree murder charge in the 2009 killing of his uncle in New York City after authorities say DNA collected from a discarded fork linked him to the crime.

Rosario Prestigiacomo, 64, was stabbed to death at his Queens home on Feb. 10, 2009, according to a news release from the Queens County District Attorney’s Office. A neighbor heard a disturbance and called police, who found Prestigiacomo face down in a pool of blood. The investigation found that he had been stabbed 16 times in the face, neck, torso and extremities, and that he had blunt-force injuries as well.

Blood swabs were collected from the location, according to the district attorney, and the city’s medical examiner used the material on them to create DNA profiles for the victim and an “additional unknown male.” The second profile was entered into databases, but did not match any profiles currently in the system.

The case remained cold until March 2022. That’s when the district attorney’s office and the NYPD cold case squad joined forces with Othram, a private laboratory, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to use forensic genetic genealogy to try to learn more about the second person. Forensic genetic genealogy uses genetic research and DNA analysis to try to identify DNA profiles.

Othram was able to use advanced DNA testing to create a “comprehensive genealogical profile” from blood left at the murder scene, the district attorney said. Meanwhile, the NYPD’s Forensic Investigations Division used databases and public records to build a family tree of the victim to try and determine possible suspects.

That family tree helped lead investigators to Anthony Scalici, Prestigiacomo’s nephew. Scalici, now 41, lived in Boynton Beach, Florida.

Detectives from the NYPD and the Boynton Beach Police Department surveyed Scalici in Florida, working to obtain a DNA sample. On Feb. 17, 2024 — almost exactly 15 years after his uncle was murdered — police were able to retrieve a discarded fork that Scalici had used.

That fork was analyzed and a DNA profile matched the unknown DNA found at the murder scene, the district attorney said. Matching DNA was also recovered from under Prestigiacomo’s fingernail.

United States Marshals, the Boynton Beach Police Department and the NYPD’s Regional Fugitive Task Force arrested Scalici on May 14. He was extradited to New York City on Wednesday.

The New York Times reported that Scalici’s lawyer, David Cohen, said his client had pleaded not guilty. He is being held at Rikers Island, the Times reported, and will next appear in court on July 8.

Scalici faces up to 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Invesitgators say at this time the motive is unclear, CBS New York reported.

The district attorney’s office said this is the first time forensic genetic genealogy has been used to identify and arrest a homicide suspect in New York City.

“I formed a Cold Case Unit to bring closure to grieving families and seek justice on behalf of victims,” said district attorney Melinda Katz in the news release. “This case is an example of the perseverance and determination of the investigators on this, and every cold case, and highlights the successful partnership formed between my office and the NYPD Cold Case Squad. Defendants should not be able to evade justice no matter how much time has passed.”