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.
Wisconsin state crime lab achieves new record in number of DNA hits
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:
Information gathered in the Wisconsin DNA Databank hits is also used to help track down criminals that may have offended in other states.
$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.
New and Ongoing Stories Involving the Use of DNA Evidence
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Connecticut - Hartford police say DNA analysis has led to an arrest in the 1994 rape of a teenage baby sitter.
Police identified Lawson as a suspect in the 1994 rape after using new techniques to analyze DNA taken during the investigation.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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