COOK COUNTY, IL – Cook County Sheriff’s Police Detective Ginny Georgantas, whose tireless devotion to solving the 17-year-old murders of twin infant boys led her to learn the complex field of forensic genealogy, has been named the 2021 Officer of the Year by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced today.
“This case was cold for nearly two decades, but it was not forgotten,” Sheriff Dart said. “Detective Georgantas’ incredible dedication to solving this case is evidence that we never give up in our search for justice. I’m proud to have such committed detectives working to help keep our residents safe and prove that all cases are worthy of closure.”
Georgantas joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2011 as a Corrections Officer and transferred to the Sheriff’s Police in 2013. After being promoted to Detective in 2015, Georgantas learned of the unsolved murders of the boys, whose bodies were found in a trash bin in unincorporated Stickney Township back in 2003.
At the time of the original investigation, an autopsy determined the victims were born alive and died of asphyxiation, and the deaths were ruled homicides. Sheriff’s Police conducted a thorough investigation at the time, but the case remained unsolved.
After years without any new developments in the case, it soon became clear to Georgantas that she would need to look to new technology if there were to be any hope of finding new leads. She devoted more than one thousand hours to learning the difficult and complicated processes of forensic genealogy, which — in addition to months of traditional investigative work – enabled her and her colleagues to link DNA recovered at the original scene a possible blood relative of the victims.
This fresh lead led her and her supervisor to a stakeout outside a convenience store in Holland, Michigan, where they were able to recover a tossed cigarette butt from the woman they believed was related to the infants.
Ultimately, the DNA profile of the woman Georgantas identified through her research matched that of the unknown birth mother of the victims, Antionette Briley, who subsequently confessed to giving birth to the boys in her bathtub and then discarding them alive in the trash can.
In December 2020, Briley was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and is currently being held in Cook County Jail awaiting trial on $150,000 D-bond.
“It is an incredible honor to win this award, and I just want everyone to know that I could not have done it alone,” Georgantas said. “Everyone – from my supervisors and fellow detectives to the genealogist that taught me this work, to the other law enforcement partners that went out of their way to help – worked tirelessly to bring some measure of justice for these innocent children.”
The International Association of Chiefs of Police Officer of the Year award recognizes exceptional achievements in policing on a global stage, rewarding those who show an unparalleled commitment to public service and community safety. This marks the second time a Cook County Sheriff’s Police Officer has won this award. The first was Officer Larry Ostrowski in 1975.