CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Porchlight Project wants to be a light for Northeast Ohio families that have lost family members to murder.
The project is a non-profit brainchild of Northeast Ohio investigative journalist and writer James Renner.
Renner put together the board of former police officers, journalists and researchers after 16 years reporting about missing persons.
“I got to the point that I got tired of writing about crime and thought I could do something to solve these crimes, and that was the beginning of what became the Porchlight Project,” Renner told 19 News.
The organization launched earlier this month after an announcement it would be looking into the 1987 unsolved murder of 17-year-old Barbara Blatnik.
Blatnik’s nude body was discovered Dec. 20, 1987 near Steels Corners Road in Cuyahoga Falls. The case remains unsolved.
"There are cases that are going to be very difficult, but if you’ve left DNA at a crime scene, 100% that case is going to be solved, whether it is today, tomorrow or five years from now. The technology is just so good now, you can’t leave DNA at a crime scene and get away with it, they’ll catch you,” Renner said.
When the Porchlight Project looked for its first case they considered the murder of Garfield Heights native Barbara Blatnik and approached the police with one question, “Did the killer of 17-year-old Barbara Blatnik leave behind DNA?”
Whoever killed Blatnik left behind DNA.
“What we are testing for is not what has been tested for in the past," Renner said. “What we are after is the markers that are helpful for forensic genealogists."
Renner believes the killer’s DNA might not be in law enforcement’s databases, “but there is a really good possibility that his cousin, or his second cousin is on one of those (genealogical) data bases.”
“We could find the children of this killer, their brother, their cousin, but whatever we find is going to point us closer and closer to the person that did this,” Renner said.
The Porchlight Project hopes to provide investigative services, and funding for DNA testing and support with the media.
The Porchlight Project is halfway to their goal of raising $4,000 to test the DNA found on the body of Barbara Blatnik.
“DNA tests run hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, I’ve looked at the Barbara Blatnik case and we can get all of this done for $4,000," Renner said.
The non-profit project will be seeking donations.
“If you’re interested in these unsolved mysteries… and you want to help in some small way, two clicks, send five dollars to the Porchlight Project, that gets us that much closer to finishing these DNA tests and the forensic genealogy and you’re little contribution could literally help solve this case,” Renner said.
19 News asked Renner if solving the murder could bring closure to the family of a murdered love one.
“With things like this there is no closure... if we knew who killed Barbara Blatnik it would bring her sister a little bit of peace, because right now she doesn’t know, she doesn’t know if maybe somebody she was friends with, somebody she knows to this day could have done it, so you always have that fear. It would take away some of that fear, if we found this guy and he went away,” Renner said.
The Porchlight Project has an 11-person unpaid board made up of journalists, law enforcement, an investigator, a graphic designer, an attorney and a fund raising secretary.