Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Familial DNA: The Savior for Cold Cases?

Familial DNA: The Savior for Cold Cases?

Controversial New Investigative Technique


By: Joseph L. Giacalone

DNAForensics.com
Familial DNA is a new tool that cold case squad detectives are arming themselves with in California, Colorado, New York and maybe soon in Virginia.  It is the process of identifying suspects by generating a list of people whose DNA closely resembles the genetic makeup entered into the Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).  Familial DNA does not provide an exact match, but a family relationship.  The list generally consists of parents, children and siblings and unlike mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), it is not just limited to the mother.

The use of familial DNA has already proven to be effective, but controversial.  LAPD Cold Case detectives arrested an alleged serial killer back in July 2010 based on familial DNA.  In that case, the DNA submitted from crime scenes was uploaded into CODIS and produced a potential match.  Then, detective work took over.  Based on dates of the crimes, the suspicion quickly fell on the close match’s father.  The detectives conducted surveillance on the subject in an attempt to covertly obtain the man’s DNA.  Their persistence paid off when the subject discarded a piece of pizza.  The DNA recovered from the pizza was a direct match to the profile found at the crime scenes.  The man was subsequently arrested and is awaiting trial.

In addition to the LAPD example, Cold case detectives can use this technique in other ways.  For example, a familial DNA match provides a person that has a brother close in age.  Detectives can then attempt to satisfy the elements of MOM, Means, Opportunity and Motive, which are needed for a suspect.  Armed with this information, the brother can be asked to come to the station house to answer some questions or his photo can be used in a photo array.  The photo array may prove to be the path of least resistance.

With this new tool, we may see an increase in clearance rates of old homicide statistics as well as help in missing person and found body cases.  Even if jurisdictions do not allow this method to be used to identify suspects, no one can argue about using it on found body cases.  This technique can provide closure for those families that have been haunted by the disappearance of their family members. 

Familial DNA may prove to be a great tool for very difficult cold cases because it may provide a springboard to launch an old investigation and at the very least a way to identify found bodies.  As the list of crimes that require a DNA sample upon conviction grows, we may see a rapid expansion of the technique throughout the nation.  Its potential cannot be ignored for very long.

7 comments:

  1. I think familial DNA is a great idea especially if it can help bring closure to missing persons families. I heard colombia is one of the countries with the highest missing person rate in the world. If this technique truly is successful yet then it would be great to see it passed around the world to help bring families closure.

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  2. I am on board all the way. Why not make it easier for cops to catch bad guys. No one's liberty is at risk with the introduction of FAMILIAL DNA. The judicial system still has SOP to follow. Family members aren't going to be round up and sent straight to jail. Bottom line is, the only people that should be worried about anything DNA related, are the bad guys. Who would object to giving their DNA to begin with???

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  3. I'd like to see more safeguards...lawyer talking here. I wrote about it here: http://rgue4u.wordpress.com/2010/07/14/familial-dna-the-next-big-brother/

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  4. I think it is a great new investigation tool that will ultimately prove useful in more then just Cold Cases. Safeguards are already in place considering that anyone arrested by the use of familial DNA is still considered innocent until proven guilty. The prosecutors and courts will use the valid scientific data gathered as evidence and convict accordingly.

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  5. I think being able to bring closure to families is a great thing. An individual goes missing 10 years ago, the family in reality wants to keep hope and say that one day that individual will appear but there is also a part of them telling them to just give up and that this person is dead. With the familial DNA, and having this information in the system and help families bring closure to them and give them a peace of mind in which they have not had wondering day in and day out about this family memeber of there that is so called missing.

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  6. Its a great tool that can be utilised by law enforcement agencies for the resent / present crimes. At the same time it can be looked from two different prespectives for cold cases:
    Cold case victim made piece with what happened and/or with loss of loved one. Utilizing familial DNA investigators solve the case and introduce the perpetrator to the judical system. Now victim who made piece with what happened and/or with loss of loved one has to relive agonising moments of the crime and reality of lossing loved one once again.
    Should law enforcement agencies consult cold case victims if they realy want to go through it again?
    Besides statue of limitation for the crime commited Should there be a statute of limitations which will asigne time frame when use of familial DNA should be used to solve the cold case?

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  7. Wow, its really seen to be that technology will take us to places that we don't even imaged, yet. however i think this "Familial DNA' it is a good way to identifying suspects; even if its doesn't provide the right match. So i believe that most of the time when this system is in use the cop will do it first using the racial face or the crime place to determine if this Familial DNA will work

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