Did This Man Confess to Murder Because of Religion or DNA?

A 21-year-old man confessed to his church congregation Wednesday night that he sexually assaulted and killed a 25-year-old woman in May 2016. But why did he admit to his crimes? Was it something he heard in church, or something he read in the Bible? Probably not.

Ryan Derek Riggs told the members of North Lake Community Church that he was responsible for the death of Chantay Blankinship, who was killed last year. Riggs and Blankinship were one-time neighbors who attended church together, according to ABC News.

Pastor Ron Keener at the North Lake Community Church was one of the first to learn of Ryan Riggs’ involvement in the death of Chantay Blankinship before the news broke Wednesday.

“He said, ‘I need to confess something,’ and in that confession, he said, ‘I’ve done something real bad. I murdered her,’” Keener said.

Keener said Riggs then went before the entire congregation and confessed to killing fellow church member Chantay Blankinship. He then went with his parents to the Brown County Law Enforcement Center to turn himself in.

When I first read this story, I started thinking about what positive roles religion can play in society. Here we have a Christian man who killed a Christian woman, and then admitted to it in front of his entire Christian congregation before anything. Did the service actually cause him to cop to his crimes?

It turns out that’s probably not the case. Riggs had been attending church for the last year since the murder, and he didn’t feel the need to confess until Wednesday. That’s probably because, a week before, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office released a “revolutionary new forensic DNA analysis” that created a simulation of what the killer looked like. The photo looked a lot like Riggs.

Left, Riggs. Right, the composite photograph.
Left, Riggs. Right, the composite photograph. From the Brown County Sheriff’s Office.

Brown County Sheriff Vance Hill said Riggs was never on the radar until the release of that composite drawing, according to New York Post.

Riggs was identified as a possible suspect in the case after the release of the profile composite that showed a white male with brown or light brown hair. Investigators said the profile was an “investigative tool” to help determine what the suspect might look like.

Within hours of its release, the Brownwood Bulletin reported receiving numerous tips about the suspect’s possible identity. One of the people was Riggs, according to the newspaper, and investigators soon learned that Riggs was an acquaintance of Blankinship and her boyfriend and that he lived nearby.

So, it turns out that it’s technology – and not religion – that led to this confession and probable conviction. Praise science!

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