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DNA identifies suspected killer in 40-year-old cold case murder of Christina Castiglione

Livingston County authorities say they have solved a nearly 40-year-old cold case homicide through DNA analysis

At a press conference held Wednesday morning, Livingston County Sheriff Mike Murphy announced that they had identified the person they believe is responsible for the murder of a Redford Township teen whose body was found in Deerfield Township.

On March 21, 1983, 19-year-old Christina Castiglione was reported missing by her mother in Redford Township. Eight days later, the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office was alerted to a deceased body located in the Oak Grove State Game Area on Faussett Rd. in Deerfield Township. Deputies responded and found the Castiglione’s body partially clothed and lying in a remote wooded area.

1983 Aerial View of Crime Scene

Detectives found evidence that she had been strangled to death and sexually assaulted. During the autopsy, the medical examiner located male DNA sources that were collected and preserved.

Lacking DNA technology in 1983, these samples were later entered into CODIS by the Michigan State Police Crime Lab in the early 2000’s but a suspect was never identified.

“For nearly 40 years, the Livingston County Cold Case Team and Detectives worked extensively on the case and pursued an exhaustive number of potential leads,” stated a press release. “In March of 2022, our office applied for and received grant funding through Season of Justice to conduct advanced DNA testing on the suspect DNA samples taken in 1983.”

Season of Justice is a non-profit organization dedicated to funding DNA testing on unsolved cold case homicides. They provide funding to law enforcement agencies nationwide to conduct advanced testing in homicide, sexual assault, and Jane/John Doe cases where the victim’s body or the suspect is unidentified, and DNA is the only investigative option.

Sheriff Murphy said that in May 2022, forensic DNA evidence from the case was sent to Othram Inc., a private forensic laboratory in Texas. Othram scientists used Forensic-Grade Genome Sequencing to develop a comprehensive genealogical profile from the DNA of the unknown male suspect.

“Othram’s in-house genealogical team used the genealogical profile to produce investigative leads. Othram returned the investigative leads to the Livingston County Cold Case Team who used the leads to continue following up on the Castiglione murder. The investigation led to the identification of a suspect, Charles David Shaw. His identification was confirmed by three separate familial DNA comparison tests. Unfortunately, Shaw died in November of 1983 and will never be held responsible for his crime in a court of law.”

Charles David Shaw

While detectives were unable to find any direct ties between Christina and Charles Shaw to suggest why she was targeted, through collaboration with living relatives of the killer, it was determined that he was a long-time Livonia resident who lived less than 5 miles from where Castiglione went missing.

Murphy said that based on information received from Shaw’s family, he was described as a sex addict with a disturbing life who struggled with mental illness and his gender identity. Authorities said his ex-wife, who cooperated with investigators, said Shaw wanted to obtain a sex change operation. In addition, his official cause of death was autoerotic asphyxiation.

Charles Shaw had several interactions with law enforcement beginning at a young age. One such interaction resulted in his arrest in 1981 for the attempted abduction of a woman in the Fowlerville McDonald’s parking lot.

To that point, Criminologist and Professor, David Hayes, who teaches at Cleary University and Jackson College, told GIGO News that while the DNA links Shaw to the murder, his past actions also help fill in the blanks.

“Based  on what we know about this particular suspect, with the prior in 1981, the abduction in Fowlerville, the manner of death in this particular homicide, chances are that if he didn’t pass away then  there would’ve probably been more homicides based on past behavior, just as a statistical way of thinking about it,” he said. “There could possibly be homicides prior to Castiglione. That should play out possibly with more DNA searches. But if there aren’t more homicides, there probably would’ve been.”

However, Hayes says it would be a mistake to assume Shaw’s gender identity issues were a primary factor in his involvement in the murder.

“I’m reluctant to comment on it only because the gender dysmorphia issues were reported from family members,” he said. “I haven’t seen any of the interviews. I haven’t seen any of the terminology they’ve used. So I’m loathe to make an assumption about his gender identity issues, if any. I would say that sometimes this plays into homicidal behavior, but I could see in the early 80s, having gender identity issues and having to live with that in the society at the time and in the climate at the time would’ve been a very big stressor, especially in the Livonia-Redford area, being familiar with that in the early 80s as well. So there’s a lot of factors that could have played into it.”

Murphy said the cooperation of the Shaw family during the investigation was paramount to identifying Charles Shaw as the person responsible for Castiglione’s homicide.

“We are hopeful that the surviving family members of Christina Castiglione, along with victims and families of other violent unsolved crimes who have been awaiting justice for decades, experience closure as genealogical DNA continues to help law enforcement advance efforts to achieve justice for victims,” stated the release. “The Livingston County Cold Case Unit will continue to methodically investigate our remaining unsolved homicides in hopes to bring closure and justice to families and suspects.”

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