Volume 71, October 22, 2008

Please see our “Did You Know?” section toward the end of this issue.

Again the use of DNA evidence is making its mark across the country and internationally.


In Colorado, DNA evidence continues to be an important part in solving every day property crimes. In Wisconsin, the state crime lab set a new record in DNA databank hits; and Arizona is getting a $1.3 million federal grant for DNA testing in certain cases in which people have been convicted but could not be found to actually be innocent.


In addition to these stories you will find brief summaries of new and ongoing cases involving the use of DNA analysis. Every story is followed by a link to its original source, which you can follow for more details.


In The News

The burglar was undone by his taste for strawberry soda.

RazJohn Smyer, a suspect in a string of Denver-area break-ins, often checked his victims' refrigerators and helped himself to a drink. The soda cans he left behind gave police enough DNA evidence to link him to five burglaries. He's now serving a 20-year sentence.

Smyer's conviction is just one example of how DNA evidence is increasingly being used to solve everyday property crimes across the nation. Once reserved mostly for violent cases such as rape and murder, genetic testing is now much cheaper and faster than when the technology was new.

Police in New York City and Chicago use DNA testing routinely. Other agencies, such as the Los Angeles Police Department, still reserve it for the most serious crimes. Police in Great Britain began using DNA for property crimes in 2001.

In Denver, detectives linked a suspect to five burglaries after he left saliva on a piece of "gold coin" candy. The man, who was on parole when he committed the burglaries, is now serving a 48-year sentence.

Another thief was arrested after detectives found his DNA on a tuna sandwich. In a different case, investigators were even able to extract DNA from part of a lollipop left at a crime scene.

Source: ap.google.com


Wisconsin state crime lab achieves new record in number of DNA hits
The Wisconsin State Crime Lab has set a new record when it comes to the fight against crime.

 Attorney General Van Hollen announced Monday that as of the end of September the Wisconsin State Crime Lab had 441 DNA Databank hits (matches) for the year with three months to go. 

The previous yearly record for the number of DNA hits was set in 2007 when the State Crime Labs recorded 365 hits.

  The types and numbers of cases that have been aided by the Wisconsin State Crime Lab Databank hits include:

  • 479 sexual assaults
  • 148 homicides (and attempted homicides)
  • 890 burglaries/thefts
  • 369 "other cases" (arson, armed robberies, death investigations, criminal trespass, operating a motor vehicle without consent, controlled substances, etc.)

Information gathered in the Wisconsin DNA Databank hits is also used to help track down criminals that may have offended in other states.

Source: www.wkowtv.com


$1.3 mil grant given for inmate DNA tests

The Attorney General's Office as well as other state and federal agencies announced on Thursday that $1.3 million has been given through a grant for DNA testing that could overturn convictions of innocent inmates.

Representatives from the Attorney General's Office, Arizona Justice Project and the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission are administering the project, which was funded by the National Institute of Justice, an agency of the U.S. Department of Justice.


Source: www.azcentral.com


New and Ongoing Stories Involving the Use of DNA Evidence

California - A man has been sentenced to 50 years to life in state prison for raping a homeless woman and a tourist in decade-old crimes in San Francisco that were solved with DNA, authorities said.

Larry White, 50, of San Francisco was ordered this week by Judge Carol Yaggy of San Francisco Superior Court to begin serving his sentence immediately.

Source: www.sfgate.com

North Carolina - Police believe DNA evidence extracted from a T-shirt has helped them crack a two-year-old case.

Burglary Detective Gerald Hopkins sent the t-shirt to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police crime lab for DNA testing.

"I had no other evidence, no names at all," Hopkins said.  "On this particular case, they got (DNA) off the collar because you produce more sweat around your collar."

Recently, investigators found a DNA match in their files.  They didn't have to go far to find their suspect. 

Darryl Lee Byrd was already in jail. He's 24-years-old and has several previous arrests.  Byrd is charged with felony breaking and entering and larceny.

Source: www.wcnc.com


South Carolina - Authorities say DNA testing on blood from a killing eight years ago has led to the arrest of a 38-year-old Greenville man.

U.S. Marshals arrested Frederick Eugene Johnson on Thursday after police matched Johnson's DNA to blood collected when 29-year-old Iris Rhinehart was stabbed to death in June 2000.


Source: www.myrtlebeachonline.com

Massachusetts - Prosecutors say DNA test results have linked a New Hampshire man to a string of attacks on prostitutes in Massachusetts.

Plymouth Assistant District Attorney Thomas Flanagan told a Superior Court judge on Thursday that DNA samples taken in August from 35-year-old Brian Knippers of Newmarket, N.H., match DNA evidence recovered in the rapes of prostitutes in Brockton.

Knippers is accused of raping five prostitutes, four in Brockton and one in New Bedford, since 2005.

Source: news.bostonherald.com

Texas - DNA evidence has linked a felon to the 1990 slaying of a Montrose-area man, authorities said Thursday.

Manuel Cardona, 42, was charged Wednesday with capital murder in the July 5, 1990, stabbing death of Donn Vorse, 44, Houston police said.

In April, blood samples from the scene were analyzed and entered into a DNA database. A match was made with Cardona this month, police said.

Source: www.chron.com


Maryland - Twenty years after a jury convicted James L. Owens of a murder he said he didn't commit, prosecutors yesterday dropped all charges against him in his retrial, making him the seventh person in Maryland to be ordered freed because of DNA evidence.

The key to Owens' freedom was a sample of genetic material taken from the victim 20 years ago, before DNA testing was available, which was saved by the medical examiner's office and tested in 2006. The new analysis showed that the genetic material didn't come from Owens or James Thompson Jr., who testified two decades ago that he was present when Owens raped and killed Colleen Williar, 24, in her bed in Southeast Baltimore.


Source: www.baltimoresun.com


Connecticut - Hartford police say DNA analysis has led to an arrest in the 1994 rape of a teenage baby sitter.

Officers charged 46-year-old Frederick Lawson on Saturday with first-degree sexual assault and kidnapping.

Police identified Lawson as a suspect in the 1994 rape after using new techniques to analyze DNA taken during the investigation.


Source: www.newsday.com


New York - A state police DNA expert testified Tuesday she found evidence linking Orange County resident Dennis Sweeney to the murder of Hudson Valley restaurateur Cosimo DiBrizzi.

The witness, Kristen Kad-ash, told the jury she analyzed DNA samples taken from a wad of chewing gum found on the stairs of the DiBrizzi home in Balmville shortly after DiBrizzi and his son, Nicolas, were shot by an intruder on May 10, 2004.

Asked by Senior Assistant District Attorney John Geidel if the DNA taken from the gum matched DNA taken from either of the victims of the shooting, Kadash said they did not.

Asked by Geidel if she found a DNA match for the gum, Kadash said she had - in 2007.

"It matched the DNA of Dennis Sweeney," she said.


Source: www.poughkeepsiejournal.com


South Carolina - A Myrtle Beach man serving 12 years for a 2005 attack on a 7-year-old girl was charged Tuesday with criminal sexual conduct and kidnapping in a 2001 case from Horry County.

Gregory Thomas Pencille, 30, who is being held at the Evans Correctional Institute in Bennettsville, was charged in the older sexual assault incident after a DNA comparison of evidence from the Myrtle Beach and Horry County cases, according to officials from the State Law Enforcement Division.


Source: www.myrtlebeachonline.com


Massachusetts - The jury in the Dominic Kent rape trial got a crash course in forensic testing yesterday when the prosecutor offered DNA evidence allegedly linking Mr. Kent to the 2005 crime.

Christine Lambert, a DNA analyst at the state police crime lab, testified in Worcester Superior Court that Mr. Kent’s DNA profile matched a genetic profile derived from a vaginal swab taken from the woman he allegedly raped at knife point in her Leominster home on the morning of June 23, 2005.

Ms. Lambert said she obtained the match through a relatively new form of DNA testing known as YSTR, which focuses solely on the male Y chromosome in the DNA molecule.


Source: www.telegram.com

Colorado - A person already charged as a "John Doe" based on DNA evidence in a series of car break-ins and thefts has been identified, arrested and jailed.

Authorities accuse Francisco Baeza-Martinez, 21, of breaking into cars north and west of downtown Denver to steal personal items, according to the Denver district attorney's office.

Baeza-Martinez faces seven felony cases linked by DNA over the past two years, prosecutors said in a news release.

Source: www.denverpost.com



Canada - Neil Lester Johnson was found guilty by a jury Friday of the brutal sexual assault of a seven-year-old girl 13 years ago.

During the trial, a forensic scientist testified it was a scientific certainty that Johnson's DNA was found on the pajamas of the little girl who was kidnapped and raped in Edmonton on Aug. 5, 1995.

The 32-year-old was found guilty of aggravated sexual assault, kidnapping and unlawful confinement. The case against him turned largely on the DNA evidence, as there was no other apparent connection between Johnson and the little girl, her family, or her community.

Source: www.canada.com


UK – Forensic tests on a piece of rubber glove found near the body of a Doncaster prostitute were a DNA match for her and a partial match for the man accused of her murder, a court heard.

Police also found a single condom which returned a DNA match for Alan Gregory - the man accused of her murder - and a partial match for mum-of-two Claire Laggan.

Forensic expert Valerie Tomlinson told Sheffield Crown Court the latex fingertip was stuck to a 30cm strip of gaffer tape recovered from where the body was found in a car in woods near Rowena Infant School in Conisbrough.

Source: www.sheffieldtelegraph.co.uk


Did You Know?


RNA-based computers could check on cells

Based on the health of cells, tiny computers could treat what they find


Tiny biology-based computers could eventually check up on the health of individual cells, and, based on what they find, could then treat those cells. That's according to new research from scientists at the California Institute of Technology published in the current issue of Science.

"This is the first time that someone has showed a molecular computer that can respond to stimuli inside a living cell," said Ehud Shapiro, a professor of computer science and biology at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

For more, please go to:

Source: www.msnbc.msn.com



The DNA Informant is a free bi-weekly email newsletter, published by DNA Labs International.

DNA Labs International is a private, ISO 17025 Accredited, Forensic Serology and DNA Identity Testing Laboratory, founded in 2004 by a Board Certified Fellow in Molecular Biology with over two decades of experience in Forensic Serology and DNA Analysis in United States Crime Labs.  Our primary mission is to help our clients identify criminals within their jurisdiction by providing timely, accurate and cost effective DNA testing results.  To do this we created an organization based on industry best practices from over 20 State Crime Labs around the United States.  We are located in Deerfield Beach, Florida, just minutes from the Fort Lauderdale airport.

DNA Labs International’s services are now available for individual cases and outsourcing contracts.  Please keep us in mind as you start to consider your outsourcing needs, regular and rush cases and DNA case review.

Editor: Karen Daurie