Dna Labs Reheating Cold Cases
As DNA analysis tools get more sophisticated, many unsolved crimes are being reopened in hopes of uncovering new information. In Utah, the Salt Lake Valley main crime lab is the only facility able to conduct DNA tests; three criminalists and a supervisor work there. DNA profiles can be generated from samples as small as 40 to 50 intact cells from such different sources as cigarette butts, hair, or a piece of bitten fruit.
Salt Lake County Sgt. Keith Stephens say the potential to use small pieces of evidence for DNA tests has prompted officers to be more cautious when entering a crime scene. Officers might also request evidence specialists who search for such subtle evidence as saliva, says Stu Smith, Utah’s Forensic Services Director.
The state was one of the first to join CODIS, a nationwide database that allows recovered DNA samples from crime scenes to be compared with DNA profiles from hundreds of thousands of convicted felons. Because a probability of error of 1 in 1,000 is inadmissible in court, evidence has to be collected and evaluated carefully to ensure reliable results.
DNA tests usually cost a minimum of $700 each and require six weeks to two months for processing, but urgent cases can be completed by the lab in a day.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Salt Lake Tribune (07/26/04) P. B1; Canham, Matt .