Barbara Rae-Venter

Barbara Rae-Venter, photo by Asa Mathat
Barbara Rae-Venter, photo by Asa Mathat

Barbara Rae-Venter is the president and a cofounder of Firebird Forensics Group, a nonprofit corporation that focuses on assisting law enforcement with identifying suspects in violent crimes and unidentified human remains. She is the author of I Know Who You Are, a book about the early cases that she assisted in solving, including the Golden State Killer. The book was a finalist for the 2024 Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime book.

Rae-Venter was the first to use what is now known as Investigative Genetic Genealogy (IGG) in a criminal case involving the mother of Lisa Jensen, abducted in infancy and then abandoned by her abductor as a 5 year old. This identification helped solve the Bear Brook murders (four unidentified bodies found in barrels) in Allenstown, New Hampshire. IGG is now being used to solve hundreds of previously “unsolvable” cold cases; Rae-Venter and her team have solved more than 70 cases in all.

For her work, Rae-Venter has been recognized as one of Nature‘s “10 people who mattered this year” (2018) and Time‘s 100 Most Influential People of 2019.

She is a retired intellectual property attorney and holds a doctorate in biology.

selected bibliography

I Know Who You Are by Barbara Rae-Venter
I Know Who You Are: How an Amateur DNA Sleuth Unmasked the Golden State Killer and Changed Crime Fighting Forever (2023)

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online resources

Firebird Forensics website
“She Helped Crack the Golden State Killer Case. Here’s What She’s Going to Do Next,” New York Times, April 29, 2018
“How a Jane Doe Child Case Uncovered a Serial Killer, Identified Victims and Changed the Use of DNA Forensics,” ABC News, March 19, 2020

Video: Rae-Venter on unmasking the Golden State Killer and solving other cold cases on Commonwealth Club of California