Cold Case Solved With DNA

A California cold case was recently solved with DNA taken from the crime scene and preserved for 38 years. In 1978 a woman and her boyfriend were assaulted leaving a bar. The woman was sexually assaulted and died from blunt force trauma to the head and a gunshot wound to her chest. Her boyfriend survived being shot in the head. He told police three men participated in the crime but could not give any identifying details. He only described them as dark. A DNA sample was take from the woman as a result of the sexual assault and checked against the CODIS database. Nothing was found and the case lay dormant for years. Recently the sample was run again and this time found a match. It matched someone with a criminal record who had passed away in 1996. Since he had been cremated instead of buried authorities were unable to exhume his body to double check the match. Instead they found relatives of the man in question and eventually a biological son who gave a sample and the use of familial DNA confirmed the man was the perpetrator. It’s a conclusion without a trial. In Texas a law was recently passed to test the back log of rape kits we have. Since rape has a statute of limitations in Texas and some of the kits are past the point some have pondered using the results of those tests in other ways i.e. if there is a match with someone still in prison for something else using the results before the parole board to keep that individual locked up for a longer time period. This troubles me for due process reasons. Anybody else have thoughts on how that is legal or whether or not it is a good idea? I am also troubled that we have such a back log of rape kits to begin with, especially ones that are past the statute of limitations. How is that justice for the victims in those cases? “Sorry, we didn’t test your kit because we had budget issues but good news we found some money and we are testing it now and we even have a match! Bad news statute has run and the person will not be held accountable for what was done to you.” I wonder if the victim or next of kin could sue the state or county for not testing the kit sooner. Yes, you have those pesky sovereign immunity issues but there are ways around those. Or could the victim get the name of the person who matched the DNA and sue them civilly? For more on the California cold case click here.


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