DNA matches help FBI link nine sex crimes

DNA matches help FBI link nine sex crimes

The FBI's combined DNA Index

By Shruti Dat'

GCN Staff

The National DNA Index System helped the FBI's DNA analysis unit close nine sexual-assault investigations with what the bureau called a cold hit.

'A cold hit is when an association between either an offender or a crime scene is made absent an investigative lead,' FBI spokesman Paul Bresson said.

Six seemingly unrelated sexual- assault cases in Washington have been linked to three sexual-assault cases under investigation by the Jacksonville (Fla.) Sheriff's Office, Bresson said.

NDIS, which went online in October, is the final component of the FBI's Combined DNA Index System Program, said Barry Brown, the FBI's NDIS program manager. CODIS is a repository for DNA profiles submitted by 14 states through their own DISes and by 32 laboratories through local DISes. CODIS holds 180,000 DNA profiles.

NDIS taps two systems to match biological evidence. The Convicted Offender Index holds DNA profiles of people convicted of sexual and other violent felony crimes.

The Forensic Index contains DNA profiles collected by states from evidence such as hair, semen and blood found at crime scenes. The Forensic Index profiles are of suspects and victims that have not yet been identified, Brown said.

Keep it here

The data is stored in a Microsoft SQL Server 6.5 database that resides on a pair of 200-MHz dual-processor Compaq ProLiant 6500 servers with 1G of RAM each, according to the FBI.

The FBI runs CODIS under Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, and users access the system from their PCs, Barry said.

Using Visual Basic and C++, FBI developed the CODIS software through a contract with Science Applications International Corp. of San Diego.

The FBI and state users are connected via a secure telephone line, but the bureau plans to finish installing the Criminal Justice Information System WAN and move the DNA profile transactions to it within 18 months, Brown said.

In early June, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) laboratory matched a DNA profile in NDIS to one in a Jacksonville lab, which was investigating three 1998 sexual assaults in its jurisdiction.

Two other cases in Washington may also be connected to the late Leon Dundas, the man held responsible for these crimes, according to the FBI.

'The process of getting the cold hit started in two locations at the same time,' said James M. Pollock, senior crime analysts at the FDLE Jacksonville Regional Operations Center.

The FBI developed profiles, which they linked at the local level to the six in the Washington Metropolitan Police Department's District 7.

'We linked three cases at the local level here,' Pollock said. 'We had no clue who it was. Our search then went through the state level, but didn't find anything there. Then it went to the national level, where our three hit on the FBI's profile.'

When the match occurred, the report came first to the FDLE and then to the Jacksonville regional office, where Pollock received it via an AT&T Corp. Secure Telephone Unit III line. FDLE is working to replace the STU links with a T1 connection, Pollock said.

The Florida regional office and the FBI compared notes and established the connection between the crimes, drawing the conclusion that the same individual was at work in the nation's capital and Jacksonville, Pollock said.

Check it out

In Jacksonville, detectives had their eye on a suspect in the three sexual-assault cases under investigation. Dundas had even been interviewed, but a blood sample could not be taken without his consent. A sexual-assault investigator took a blood sample after Dundas' death in a March 8 shooting in Jacksonville.

'Of course it matched,' Pollock said. 'We put the data into the system and searched it at the local level, and immediately hit the three profiles.'

In early July, these three profiles linked Dundas' DNA to the six D.C. sexual-assault cases, FBI officials said.

'Personally, I feel that in cases where you have DNA, the jury is much more convinced, if it is properly presented. They can use that fact and use it with other facts and circumstantial evidence to come to a conclusion,' Pollock said.

The FBI is adding three to four states per month to NDIS, Brown said. States must adhere to the FBI's quality assurance standards created by the FBI DNA Advisory Board, 1994 DNA Identification Act and Privacy Act of 1996 to participate, he said.


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