Archive for the ‘DNA’ Category
Detectives Slim N. None and Frank Lee Iduncare caught the case of their careers when Captain I. Giterdun assigned them to investigate the murder of one of Savannah’s most popular ghost tour managers, I.C. Spooks.
The two top cops arrived on the scene and found Ms. Spooks’ body (her friends call her Ida, they’d learned) lying in a cobblestone alley just off River Street, near the entrance to the Gulp ‘Em Down Oyster Bar and Rot Gut Drink Emporium.
No witnesses and no obvious clues. No weapon and no sign of injury or open wounds. Not even so much as a chipped fingernail. No footprints on the stones. Not a single thing to go on. Well, except for a tiny dot of something reddish brown on the tip of the victim’s right index finger. None said the drop certainly looked like blood. To be certain, though, they’d have to wait for the autopsy report, hoping the M.E. would come up with the impossible. In the meantime, the detectives did what they do best…knocked on doors and asked a lot of questions. In other words, they pestered people until they either talked or slammed the door in the eager faces of the two detectives. The latter being the more common occurrence.
Turns out that it was DNA that solved the Spooks murder case. Below are the possible findings of Savannah medical examiner Y. N. Sizion. Nine of the things listed could be true scenarios. One, however, is not. Do you have what it takes to spot the April Fools finding? Well, let’s see if your protagonist really knows her DNA, or, if her knowledge was gained from watching Castle reruns.
1. After developing a list of ten perfectly possible perpetrators, a positive match to suspect number ten was discovered by matching DNA from the crime scene to the DNA found in a recently-formed dental mold (the suspect was fitted for a new crown the day prior to the murder).
2. The suspect was identified by matching DNA found at the crime scene to DNA found on the mouth opening of a seriously shrunken ski mask located in a overflowing and lopsided clothes basket in the suspect’s apartment.
3. The medical examiner found a single foreign hair (no root) lodged deep in the throat of the victim. DNA found in the hair matched the DNA of one of the suspects.
4. The killer had forced oral copulation on the victim prior to her death. The victim’s DNA matched DNA swabbed from the suspect’s “private part” several hours after the offense.
5. DNA found on a cigarette butt lying near the victim’s body matched the DNA of one of the ten suspects. Faced with the DNA evidence linking him to the crime scene, he, suspect number seven, confessed to the murder.
6. Detective Iduncare found a crumpled postcard wedged between the north side trolley rail and a loose cobblestone. DNA found on the back of the card’s postage stamp was a positive match to suspect number four.
7. None and Iduncare were pleased and positively elated when the lab identified suspect number five by matching the DNA found at the crime scene to the DNA extracted from the suspect’s red blood cells.
8. A scientist from the lab called Iduncare to deliver the news he’d been waiting to hear…yes, the scientist had indeed discovered DNA on Spooks’ body, but what she’d found was a mixture, meaning there could have been more than one suspect. She went on to say that since her discovery was a mixture, she would not and could not positively include or exclude any one person as a suspect in the crime.
9. Detective None interviewed the Gulp ‘Em Down bartender and learned the poor woman had a nasty cold. She also said that, out of curiosity, she’d walked over to have a look at the body where she engaged in one of the worst coughing and sneezing fits of her entire 27 years on the planet. And, yes, she probably sprayed the corpse with quite a bit a spittle in the process. “That wasn’t a problem, was it?” the pink and green-haired woman asked while using a wadded bar napkin to mop the end of her dripping nose. Detective None learned from the folks at the lab that blowing cold remnants on a dead body could indeed compromise whatever DNA they found.
10. During the testing, scientists found the DNA of several people on the victim’s body, including that of None and Iduncare, who should have worn gloves while processing the crime scene.
After the lab results finally came back, and all was sorted through and pawed at by a team of prosecutors, None and Iduncare were finally able to slap the cuffs onto the wrists of their suspect(s).
And, future ghost tours were proud to boast of a brand new spirit, the recently departed I.C. Spooks, whose ghost could often be seen peering out at tourists from behind windows of various businesses and storefronts along the riverfront.
*Top photo – Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department
* Bottom photo – I.C. (Ida) Spooks
We’ve all heard the stories of long turnaround time for DNA analysis, and the subsequent submission to CODIS for possible matches, especially in cases related to murder and rape investigations. But, when submitted evidence is for lower priority crimes—car break-ins and small scale drug use and sales, well, it’s safe to say the results are returned at an even slower pace. In some cases, the wait can be as long as 12 to 18 months.
CODIS (Combined DNA Index System), in conjunction with NDIS (National DNA Index System) is the world’s largest database record of offender DNA—10 million DNA profiles. Each of those profiles, merely a series of numbers—is representative of a single person. To match a suspect to one of those stored profiles is definitely not as quick and easy as TV leads us to believe.
First, investigators must collect a piece of evidence containing possible DNA—cigarette butt, bottle, drinking glass, bed sheet, condom, baggie (drug crime), etc. Next, the investigator delivers the packaged evidence to a laboratory where the actual DNA testing is performed (above photo). The laboratory then submits their results, a “forensic unknown,” to CODIS.
Ideally, there’s a local CODIS system in place, where the submitted profile is compared to the profiles of known, local offenders (remember, most crimes are committed by the same people, over and over again, especially in small jurisdictions). If no match is received there, then the profile would be sent to the state CODIS system. No match at the state level and the profile is next entered into the national database for comparison to the 10 million profiles stored there.
So, as you see, it can be a long process. And, in fact, many times the offenders have committed numerous other crimes before a “hit” comes back on the original profile, if at all.
So, some local police agencies are partnering with local private DNA testing companies, in lieu of the government-run NDIS/CODIS, hoping to greatly reduce turnaround times on their evidence. Of course, those private labs must be certified and accredited.
Departments using the private labs are enjoying extremely quick results, in as few as 30 days. And what that means to the police department is that they’re able to solve more crimes at a faster rate, putting the bad guys in jail before they commit a long string of unsolved crimes. And, those low-on-the-priority-list crimes are also solved at a quicker pace. For example, a baggie containing heroin residue is found at the scene of a crime. Unlike the standard month’s-long wait, a quick test on the DNA left on the bag could turn up a near-instant profile match in the local system.
A great example of the local lab/police department system is in Bensalem, Pa., where local police, in conjunction with a local lab, have established their own DNA database (LODIS) of approximately 4,000 samples/profiles. There, officers submit approximately 150 samples each month. Out of those samples, 80 crimes have been solved, as opposed to less than 10 hits from CODIS in the year or so before the Bensalem Township PD started their LODIS database. Turnaround time in the local LODIS system is a scant 30 days or less.
Bensalem is now enjoying a higher case clearance rate. An added bonus is that crime has actually decreased in the jurisdiction. Cases also move through the courts at a faster rate since criminals often take a plea deal when faced with DNA evidence against them.
Well, all this sounds too good to be true, right? Think again, because Rapid DNA testing is the next great law enforcement tool. You think 30 day test results are fast? Try DNA test results in 90 minutes!
Yep, bad guys beware, because with Rapid DNA the police could have your name in hand before the victim’s body arrives at the morgue.
*Resource for Bensalem LODIS – Sheriff Magazine, Sep/Oct 2012
*Photos – Me